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Flirting With Disaster
Flirting With Disaster
Actors: Ben Stiller, Patricia Arquette, Téa Leoni, Mary Tyler Moore, George Segal
Director: David O. Russell
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy
R     1999     1hr 32min

Sometimes a filmmaker's second movie gets labeled as a sophomore slump. David O. Russell (Spanking the Monkey) shreds that fate with Flirting with Disaster, an outrageous, free-spirited comedy about private people forced i...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Ben Stiller, Patricia Arquette, Téa Leoni, Mary Tyler Moore, George Segal
Director: David O. Russell
Creators: David O. Russell, Bob Weinstein, Christopher Goode, Dean Silvers, Harvey Weinstein, Kerry Orent, Trea Leventhal
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Romantic Comedies, Screwball Comedy, Ben Stiller, Lily Tomlin
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Letterboxed - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 06/15/1999
Original Release Date: 03/22/1996
Theatrical Release Date: 03/22/1996
Release Year: 1999
Run Time: 1hr 32min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Letterboxed
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 7
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English
See Also:

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Member Movie Reviews

Reviewed on 3/7/2023...
Lots of stars in this super quirky and really weird movie! One thing that stood out with this movie that took the rating downward.

Movie Reviews

Incredibly funny - SMART funny!
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Even though my comments will echo those of other positive comments listed on this site, I felt I HAD to put my two cents in, if only to get the "Average Rating" boosted so that more folks will check out this classic comedy. As you can see from the handful of negative reviews, it's not everyone's cup of tea - some people perceive it to be a somewhat grating experience. True, the humor comes out of putting people in very uncomfortable situations but, if you find humor in well meaning but neurotic people squrming and sweating their way through funny mishap after funny mishap, you will adore this movie. Everyone is fantastic in this film, though Tea Leoni, Alan Alda, and Lily Tomlin come close to stealing the show. Arquette is a sexy straight man (though she gets to earn some laughs, too), Stiller is his usual put-upon self, Mary Tyler Moore & George Segal have great cameos, and Josh Brolin & Richard E. Jenkins make for two unforgettable Feds. A ton of brilliant set pieces and memorable/quotable lines are served up by the very talented David O. Russell ("Three Kings," "Spanking the Monkey") in this, his second film as writer/director. I have no negative criticism to offer - it's hilarious every time you view it (and I've screened it plenty). Really, it's one of the best SMART comedies of the past decade. Folks looking for flatulence jokes, zany hairdos, and pop cultural references in lieu of witty dialogue will have to look elsewhere. I'd give it 10 stars if that were an option - I cannot praise it enough."
Shashank Tripathi | Gadabout | 01/07/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Where to begin! Lily Tomlin and Alan Ada at the top of their game in an all-round stellar comic starcast. Lighthearted but biting dialogue that houses a charming warmth for its dysfunctional characters. And a doozy theme: a new father's search for his birth parents. He can't name his own baby until he knows more about where he came from. The adoption agent who accompanies them is the epitome of the high strung New Yorker, whose goofs and gaffs lead the group into one riotous predicament after another. Particularly funny if you have recently been thinking of names for a baby, or if you can laugh at 60's counterculture. The movie is funniest in the last 15 minutes or so. The closing credits alone are worth the price of admission (or DVD). Recommended rental. Even better the second time round."
Sea of Strange
Lee Armstrong | Winterville, NC United States | 09/02/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

""Flirting With Disaster" is a wild romp directed by David O. Russell who burst onto the scene with "Spanking the Monkey" and has since directed "Three Kings" with George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg & Ice Cube and "I Heart Huckabees." He does a good job keeping us off balance and having each new scene and character provide something fresh.

Ben Stiller has developed into one of the United States' true comic stars. Son of Jerry Stiller & Anne Meara, his timing is edgy and his ability to portray confused discomfort in awkward situations is classic. With better known films like "There's Something About Mary," "Meet the Parents," "Meet the Fockers," "Dodgeball," "The Royal Tannenbaums" & "Starsky & Hutch," he's developed a large body of excellent work. As Mel Coplin, he's a quiet family man who has trouble making decisions, like naming their baby who was born months ago. As an adoptee, he starts out on a search to find his birth parents.

Patricia Arquette plays his wife Nancy. She recently was nominated for an Emmy for Best Actress in a drama for the NBC series "Medium" (a show that I watch every episode!). She's previously acted in "Holes," "Beyond Rangoon" & "Little Nicky." As Nancy, she seems to be the anchor for the movie, the lone island of sanity in a sea of strange.

As the Coplins, Mel's adoptive parents, George Segal plays the father. From classic films "The Owl & the Pussycat" & "A Touch of Class," his lone Oscar nomination was in 1966 as supporting actor for "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" with Richard Burton & Elizabeth Taylor. His comic sense is in full flare as he pushes and pulls with his wife in an ongoing struggle. Mary Tyler Moore plays his wife, self-obsessed, chronically uptight & full of complaint. Tyler's lone Oscar nomination came as best actress in the Robert Redford-directed 1980 film "Ordinary People." The buzz from this film was that she appeared in a provocative black bra that she does indeed wear well! :)

Mel Coplin is assisted in trying to find his birth parents by a psychology student Tina played by Tea Leoni. She'll soon be seen in "Fun With Dick & Jane" with Jim Carrey & Angie Harmon. Other films where I've enjoyed her performances are the serious disaster movie "Deep Impact" and the funny "Spanglish." Here her character is edgy and neurotic, a divorcee attracted to Mel, trudging to the bathroom in provocative black underwear. She has an uncanny ability to screw things up & continually throw monkey wrenches into what we think SHOULD have been easier.

Midway into the picture after Mel thinks he's met his father, a low-brow truck driver, and takes a driving lesson only to flatten a post office & discover his real parents are elsewhere, we run into two agents from the FBI & Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms. Josh Brolin, son of actor James Brolin, plays Tony who knew Nancy Coplin from high school. As an actor, Brolin has appeared in Woody Allen's "Melinda & Melinda," "Bed of Roses," & has "Into the Blue" out this year. His partner we discover is also his gay husband Paul played by Richard Jenkins. Jenkins will star with Leoni & Carrey in "Fun With Dick & Jane" and is best known for the HBO series "Six Feet Under." He was nominated as best supporting actor by the Independent Spirit Awards for this film. Both characters are a mix of the orthodox and unexpected. Brolin has a scene-stealer where he licks Nancy's armpit as her husband walks in. Jenkins has a scene-stealer as he's been laced with an overdose of LSD and flits around the countryside in his tighty-whities.

The Coplins eventually find their birth parents who are counter culturals making their living by selling LSD-laced decals of Ronald Reagan. One of the funnies moments is when Mary Tyler Moore misunderstands their last name "Schlicting" and calls them the "Sh*t Kings." Alan Alda, known for the long-running "MASH" TV series as well as films like "The Object of My Affection" with Jennifer Aniston & Paul Rudd and his recent Best Supporting Actor nomination for "The Aviator," plays Richard Schlicting, an old hippy who followed the Grateful Dead. His wife Mary Schlicting is played by Lily Tomlin to great affect. She's the perfect counter-cultural earth mother. Tomlin, whose lone Oscar nomination was for her supporting role in the 1975 film "Nashville" and was a delightful Golden Globe nominee for one of my favorite films, "All of Me" in 1984, was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress in the Independent Spirit Awards for this film. Both provide wonderful moments and keep the comedy pace bubbling. Their misfit punk son Lonnie Schlicting is played to great effect by Glenn Fitzgerald who also appeared with Ryan Gosling in the white supremacist film "The Believer" and in "The Sixth Sense." His maladjusted neurosis suits the film's wild comedy perfectly.

This is a film that keeps moving with overlapping dialogue & nonstop breakneck pacing. While the characters can be so strange that they border on the irritating, all in all it's a good piece of comic film worth checking out performed by an all-star cast. Enjoy!"