Eye For Film >> Movies >> Flirting With Disaster (1996) Film Review
A comedy about the search for biological parents rates low on anyone's expectation chart. David O Russell, however, has turned a difficult subject into an irreverent road movie that runs away with itself.
Mel (Ben Stiller) is a neurotic New Yorker who takes fatherhood so seriously he can't perform in the marital bed. It makes him eager to find out about his own parents, not the ones who brought him up (George Segal and Mary Tyler Moore at full throttle), but the ones who gave him away at birth.
With his wife (Patricia Arquette), the baby who can't be named until he discovers his true identity and the girl from the adoption agency (Tea Leoni), who fancies him, he drives to California. The journey becomes a succession of sexual mishaps, unexpected encounters and false leads, all of which endorse embarrassment as a social ambush.
There are gay cops, Alan Alda and Lily Tomlin as refugees from the Sixties and a scattered cast of eccentrics. Russell's writing has an originality that dignifies the misfit, as well as boobytraps expectation. Sex is a constant source of hilarity - the wrong people in the wrong places - and relationships have an abrasive energy unlike most Hollywood romps, where characters take the part of gag puppets.
Journeys lose direction once enthusiasm is blunted by familiarity. This one does only at the end when a sudden desire for good housekeeping insists on tying up subplots and bring everyone together for a final curtain call.Reviewed on: 31 Aug 2002