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Patton Oswalt: “Messy relationships manifest as madness” | Movies

PMany films have been pinned down to seemingly foolproof plans that go catastrophically wrong in execution; less common is the film that hinges on a scheme so misguided, so rich in the potential for disaster, so guaranteed to end in failure that one wonders why any character would even try it in the first place.

The new film I Love My Dad falls into the latter category, which is precisely what star Patton Oswalt has been attracted to. His face-voice combo has that special something that makes a person a sought-after character actor and a winning, memorable yet understated comedian. He’s shot hours of stand-up specials, appeared in at least one episode of all your favorite sitcoms from Parks and Recreation to Curb Your Enthusiasm (though he counts Arrested Development and Just Shoot Me! as ones he would have Most Wished You Could Have Booked), and amassed film roles ranging from beloved comedies to the lead voice of Ratatouille to an award-winning dramatic turn in Young Adult. “If they ask me, I do it!” he’s laughing. “I like to do stuff.” His counter-typical performance as a city dweller with more than just his exterior as a handicapped sad bag opposite Charlize Theron presages his final gig, which pushes him to new extremes of discomfort.

Oswalt throws himself into a role most actors wouldn’t touch with rubber gloves: the hapless Chuck, the one deadpan father to rule them all, a featured man caring for a dog he finds with his young son, then sneaking down a ‘LOST DOG’ with the pooch’s picture on it as the boy asks if he might have an owner. He got scammed and worked his way through life, rising to the top of an online chess league by copying the moves of an automated program. Its most egregious mischief forms the basis of the film and comes from the real-life experience of writer-director James Morosini, who also appears on screen as his own Franklin replacement.After being blocked by Franklin on Facebook, Chuck creates a fake profile using photos of a nice restaurant waitress and engages the fruit of his kidneys in a catfish flirtation that turns sexual with a quickie. frightening ity.

Even if sexting weren’t visually represented in the most awkward scenes of intimacy between two men this side of Wet Hot American Summer (and it is), teasing performance would still require as much empathy as an actor can muster them. Oswalt soon realized that only by meeting Chuck on his level, despicable as he was, could he hope to access the mindset that runs through an idea so incredibly bad that it is impervious to success.

“I think he’s one of those people who, very inevitably, wants credit for want to do the right thing,” Oswalt told the Guardian from a hotel room in Manhattan. “So it doesn’t matter if his plan is going to be successful or just outrageous, it’s just ‘don’t people see that I finally want to do the right thing for my son even if I don’t follow through with anything?’ He learned on his own that if he makes amazing excuses later, it doesn’t matter what’s wrong.Unfortunately, it shaped his life.

It is the work of an actor, honed to its essence. At the heart of some earth-shattering choices, Oswalt found an impulse he could tap into, seeing Chuck’s self-destructive moves as an exaggerated form of the same ethical shortcomings we all live with. “I’m absolutely guilty of that too, of wanting to do well and thinking that only that matters,” Oswalt readily admits. He’s come to see that his own imperfections don’t quite separate Chuck’s, especially in terms of parenthood, which forces us all to come to terms with our varying levels of human limitation. His daughter Alice may have just turned two, but their relationship has allowed him to imagine a not-so-happy version of her.

“It’s the first one where I really play a dad who’s trying, in his messed up way, to fix things in a relationship that’s gone really bad,” Oswalt said. “It’s a whole new perspective, for me, that I had to learn to adopt. I’ve never done a parent just dealing with parenting before. Playing the father of a son who is in his twenties, I have to at least have an idea in my mind of what it was like when he was five, eight, twelve, and how I messed that up. It caused a lot of emotion for me, remembering how my daughter was at those ages. What if I had been negligent and excluded her? It’s so foreign and cruel to me. How does this guy compartmentalize, even if it’s unconscious, real self-hatred? How do you get out of bed in the morning carrying this load? His only way is to take this desperate step and rationalize it for himself by helping a kid who doesn’t know any better.

Patton Oswalt and James Morosini in I Love My Dad Photography: Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

The clarity and lack of hesitation with which Oswalt dove into the workings of acting endeared him to Morosini, though they initially bonded as “massive moviegoers” . In this crooked portrait of paternal devotion they both saw links to the hysterical mania of Frownland and the excruciating grin of Toni Erdmann, while Morosini traced his influences back to the mother-daughter discord of the Sonata of Autumn by Ingmar Bergman. “These messed up relationships manifest in madness,” Oswalt explains. It’s in conversations like these that he’s most engaged and animated, a true love of the game explaining an incredibly prolific career that will soon enter its fourth decade. Soon he will appear in an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman fantasy saga, a graphic novel that entered Oswalt’s sophomore year of college. “Books shaped me so much,” he says. “They sent me in the right direction.”

Sandman’s work falls more directly into Oswalt’s purview, which tends toward the nerd-approved side. In a memorable stint on Parks and Recreation, he improvised a few-minute monologue detailing his wacky plans for the Star Wars franchise. He’s been through Agents of Shield, contributed a little voice work to Eternals, and co-created the MODOK streaming series. As an authority on comic-based media (“Not the authority, perhaps a authority,” he is quick to correct, adding that “there is an Illuminati council among us”), he is more qualified than most to comment on the state of the MCU super-syndicate. Marvel’s total industry dominance can’t last forever, and he sees expansion as the key to staying creatively vital. He imagines a modern equivalent of the Hollywood studio system of the 1950s or so, in which benevolent managerial neglect led to some of the finest works in American cinema.

“Some people, like Buster Keaton, very free, got crushed by the studio system,” Oswalt says. “But others like Vincente Minnelli and Michael Curtiz have thrived, doing amazing things using this system. Going deeper, here’s my question: when will Marvel unknowingly hire their Douglas Sirk, a guy who comes in and smuggling all sorts of hidden riches that they don’t even see at the studio? That’s gonna be awesome… We don’t know what a 20, 30, 40 million Marvel movie looks like yet.

From there he goes, raving about the thrilling potential of reduced surveillance, his reasoning shifting from a little-remembered ’80s Aquaman run to the much-maligned surreal sitcom ‘Til Death’. . He’s seen everything you’ve seen and would love to discuss, just five minutes into our conversation covering the early works of Ramin Bahrani, the “grossly underrated” recent action comeback Run & Gun, and the popular phenomenon that arises around the Tollywood masterpiece RRR. A complete stranger begins to see what it means when an actor is described as “good in the part.”

Patton Oswalt and Charlize Theron in Young Adult
Patton Oswalt and Charlize Theron in Young Adult Photography: Paramount/Allstar

In his easy and affable demeanor, Oswalt makes an unexpected choice for a man who is confident in his ability to smile and get out of any difficult situation. He uses his innate likability to unsavory ends in the case of I Love My Dad, but off-screen it’s the secret to his longevity in an industry known for actor-chewing and spitting. He’s earned his stripes, built his share of fame, lost love, found it – it seems like he’s done it all, and he’s just happy to be here.

More than anything, he genuinely loves his job, that rarest privilege of all. A casual question about his part of a line on Magnolia leads to an excited memory of being sent to Reno, taught to play baccarat by Paul Thomas Anderson, then hanging from a tree dressed in a full body suit on a brutal Californian morning of July. Oswalt still remembers the insight the director shared with him that day: “I could only read one page of the script I’m in, so I’m confused. I’m a dealer, and now I’m in a wetsuit? He didn’t want to say why, he just said, ‘You are the first frog that fell from the sky.’ Eventually I understood what he meant. And now it’s down to the details of the foreshadowing, when it works, when it doesn’t work, who got it right, and so on. to infinity. It feels like he has a million stories like this, and he would happily spend eternity sharing them.