Flirting with Disaster (1996): An Attempt to Explore How to Make Relationships Work

Flirting with Disaster

    “Flirting with Disaster” is not my kind of comedy. I liked a lot of the ideas it had, and the acting was good…but the execution of the plot and humor just didn’t do it for me. Knowing humor is a subjective thing I could see people loving this movie though. It reminded me of a another Ben Stiller Comedy “Meet the Parents” which for me was in a similar vein in humor and characters. Which was okay, but for me not a great comedy.

     “Flirting with Disaster” was directed and written by David O. Russell and produced by Dean Silvers.

     The premise is that Mel (Ben Stiller) and his wife Nancy (Patricia Arquette) are deciding what to name their newborn son but Mel won’t let them decide on a name until he meets his biological parents, since he was adopted. The adoption agent Tina (Tea Leoni) is there to help and ends up sending them all over the place as the initial information on birth parents was wrong as Nancy and Mel’s relationship falls apart. From here the story unfolds.

The Pros: Ben Stiller – I usually put the character name for the pro but the character didn’t full fully realized. Ben Stiller did great with what he was given, but his character fully embracing every person who he thought were his parents felt unrealistic to the point that it ruined what comedic moments it tried to create. Stiller did great with what he was given, which wasn’t much.

Alan Alda – Played Mel’s hippy biological father Richard and was one of the better performances too. You may know him from “M.A.S.H.” and he does a good job here, just isn’t given much to do. From his conflict with his biological son, to escaping to Mexico when his son accidentally gives LSD to a Federal Agent. He was a lot of fun and carried all the scenes he was in. He’s got a lot of charisma.

Patricia Arquette – Plays the wife Nancy who stands up for herself when Ted is trying to get together with Tina. She hooks up briefly with a bisexual Federal Agent who is having problems in his relationship with his husband the other Federal Agent and is the most open minded and closest to good we have in any of the characters as she is primarily focused on taking care of the kid and in the end standing up for how much of a jerk Mel is. Patricia played this perfectly with going between the very soft spoken person going along with anything Mel wants to standing up for herself. Her part in almost having an affair was very poorly written though.

Okay: The Supporting Cast – The rest of the actors I didn’t name cause their performances didn’t really stand out.  They were good as far as the script let them be good. Which is a shame as relationship drama is a fascinating subject to explore, especially in regards to marriage and divorce.

Okay/Con: Cinematography – At times this looks like a found footage film, which clashes with the times it doesn’t and actually looks good. Sadly most looks like it was filmed like a family movie which hurts as it doesn’t give us any shots that elevate tension or the script. It’s standard fair.

The Cons: The Writing – Is terrible. All the cliches are there (Tina is going through a divorce and is the temptresses, Mel is the neurotic husband orphan whose obsession drives away his wife, Nancy is the soft spoken wife who eventually stands up for herself, the FBI agents are the young man wanting an escape and his husband and partner who is obsessed with duty who needs drugs to relax, Mel’s biological parents are hippies and his other folks are other stereotypes…from the Dixie Republican, to the Anti-Semitic Trucker, etc.). These cliches don’t get beyond the cliches and that really hurts the script. This is a huge con for me as the writing is the thing I pay the most attention to in the movie and how it is expressed through the characters. Because the script failed on writing, it failed on the characters.

Direction – It was hard to for me to be invested in the characters in their struggles because of the writing (some of the jokes were pretty flat for me) and direction didn’t help. It felt like many of the side characters were phoning it in and nothing was done to elevate the poor script.

    This was a film that had an interesting idea that it could have done a lot more with. The problem was I think length (only 92 minutes long) and I’ll say it again, for me the script was terrible. I didn’t get why some of the characters did the things they did since no one was listening to anyone, which didn’t feel like it fit. Obliviousness on the characters part was the problem most of the time which lead to miscommunication. Would I recommend this film? If you like Ben Stiller comedies, you’ll probably like this one. But I’ve never been the biggest fan so it just didn’t do it for me.

Final Score: 6 / 10. Above average drama comedy with a poor script.

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