A young man, his wife, and his incompetent case worker travel across country to find his birth parents.
This is David O. Rusell's 2nd feature film. As of this writing Russell has completed four films (Spanking the Monkey, Three Kings, I Heart Huckabees and Flirting) and is headed for a great career. All of his movies are about finding happiness in life and all deal with issues (even the war film Three Kings) with people's parents. And all of his films hint that bad parenting has lead to his characters current struggles in the adult world. So if anyone has issues with their parents Russell's films are fun to watch.
Flirting with Disaster is his best film so far. It stays funny throughout and what usually makes for the best laughs in his films are the tragic events that occur with the characters. And Russell mastered the art of comedy and tragedy in this film. These are real people with real insecurities and issues and is a tad uncomfortable to watch at times. But it is probably one of the funniest movies made in the 90's.
Hollywood was definitely watching this Indy film as they snatched Ben Stiller soon afterward. This is Stiller's first stab at playing the socially awkward but very likeable leading man. A role he mastered in the mainstream world and made millions doing it while also obtaining a certain power for himself in the system so he can make his own films.
We follow Mel Kopin (Stiller) on his journey to find his parents and therefore find himself so he can be a good father to his just born son. He's scared shitless that he'll be as bad a parent as his adoptive parents were and hopes he can find a good role model for himself in order for him to be a good role model for his son. The film is all about his own insecurity of who he is and he's already setting himself up for being a bad father because he has no confidence. So you hope by the end he gains some confidence and that is why you watch the film.
This is a comedy road movie at its heart as Russell easily could of made this a very mainstream film where people run into comedic situations while everyone laughs and has a good time ala many Ben Stiller movies (while he's essentially playing the same character). But he gives these characters depth and human emotion so the pratfalls that occur are funny but hard to watch funny. We care for these characters eventhough they all do stupid things and are all selfish. The only exception is the Patricia Arquette character who is the heart and soul of this film. She's better than these characters but it stuck with them because they are family.
The last act is a tad of a disapointment because Russell doesn't give you a happy ending which you sort of want because you're so invested in the characters. His message is that parenting is very hard, perhaps the hardest thing a person can do in the world. And that is why so many people fail at it in this society.
This is a really good film that might get lost in later years because it was a non-studio distributed, non-major marketed film. There probably won't be a special aniversary DVD on this film and Ben Stiller himself might not want anyone to watch it because it's obvious that this is a character he used in his future studio films. Watch Meet the Parents and then watch this film. It's hard to see a difference in the character he's playing except Stiller was getting paid $15 million on Parents to scale on this film.
David O. Rusell is an obvious talent. Not only does he understand how to direct a film, he also is a very talented screenwriter. A rare combination.