Flirting with Disaster Movie Review

Movie Review by Anthony Leong © Copyright 1997

And I'm feeling that if I had been raised by one of my real parents, I wouldn't be such a nervous person, you know. I might be living a completely different life. I could be married to a totally different person with a different job. I mean, how do I know? I don't. Anything's possible.

This Ben Stiller (he directed "The Cable Guy", and you might remember him from his days on the fledgling Fox Network where he had his own comedy show, on which he did a great spoof called "Die Hard 12: Die Hungry", but I digress) vehicle takes the theme of being-so-caught-up-in-nostalgia-that-you-miss-the-opportunities-in-the-present (a favorite theme of directors Atom Egoyan and Wong Kar-Wai) and sticks it into a carefully-constructed comedy with hilarious situations and visual gags. Mel Coplin (Stiller) was adopted and is searching for his birth parents in order to resolve his adoption-induced neurosis and to come up with a name for his four month old son. He goes to the adoption agency and learns the identity of his mother... or so he thinks. His wife Nancy (Patricia Arquette) is very supportive and is willing to let him find his identity. A psychologist at the adoption agency, Tina (Tea Leoni, in a good role!), finances a trip for Mel and Nancy to meet his birth mother, so that she can be there to shoot a documentary on the reunification experience.

Tina says that most women who gave up their children for adoption in the Sixties were independent young women, acting against a conservative world.
You're saying that I was a slut?

And so the three begin a journey that quickly descends into a screwed-up roadtrip where awkward situations are the norm, bizarre characters intrude upon any semblance of normality, and hilarious antics ensue. An increasing sexual tension develops between Mel and Tina, while Nancy becomes enchanted with a bisexual Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms officer that ends up joining the trio with his 'spouse'.

That's okay... she is attractive.
Yes, she's attractive... but I'm married to you.

As we take a front-row seat to this three-ring circus, we see a whole line-up of guest stars grace the screen. Mary Tyler Moore (she can turn the world on with her smile, you know) and George Segal are Mel's neurotic adoptive parents, so caught up in themselves and their bickering over trivial matters. David Patrick Kelly (Jerry Horne on "Twin Peaks") shows up as an abrasive truck driver that is mistaken for Mel's father. And Alan Alda and Lily Tomlin also show up as a couple of LSD-baking baby boomers.

My marriage is obviously vulnerable at this point.
Every marriage is vulnerable... otherwise being married wouldn't mean anything, would it?

This was a great intelligent indie comedy, with so many memorable scenes and sharply-written dialogue. It was filmed like a documentary, with a lot of tripod-less freehand shots, which effectively convey the off-kilter experience that Mel goes through. And watch the opening monologue sequence for the marquee in the background that salutes another great indie film, "The Brothers McMullen".

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