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April Showers: Flirting With Disaster

waterworks each night at 11

How many of you have seen David O. Russell's Flirting With Disaster (1996)? With the exception of the stupidly maligned I ♥ Huckabees, it's his funniest film. One day it will surely be rediscovered given the attention his films regularly win now. The film centers on bickering spouses Mel & Nancy (Ben Stiller & Patricia Arquette) who are searching for Mel's birth parents. In the screwball chaotic final act, they end up sharing the guest rooms in the crowded home of drug-loving hippie conspiracy theorists (Lily Tomlin, Alan Alda, Glen Fitzgerald) with a neurotic adoption agency executive Tina (Tea Leoni) and federal agents partners Paul and Tony (Richard Jenkins and Josh Brolin) who are also lovers. Eyes start to wander: Tina and Mel get flirtatious and Tony just can't stop coming on to Nancy.

While Mel enjoys a very uncomfortable dinner downstairs, upstairs tattooed and pierced Tony walks right into Nancy's bathroom where she's brushing her teeth. She immediately gets nervous and drops a picture frame on the floor and begins babbling about prints she has at home. Should she frame them? Anything to avoid looking at this bisexual hunk in a towel. He interrupts...

Tony: Do you want to take a shower?

Nancy: You go ahead.

Tony: No, together.

Nancy: [Awkward Laugh]

Tony: Your husband has been taking you for granted a little bit, don't you think? 

Nancy: ...

Nancy: Let me get my shower cap.

The scene only gets funnier from there (despite some awkward cross-cutting between three different sets of characters) but you really have to see it in context for the full hilarity. Sadly for Patricia, she never makes it to the shower with young Brolin.

Ben Stiller does, however, walks in on his screen wife in a hilarious wet compromising position, though. This remains one of Josh Brolin's best characters; it's tough to beat a baby hungry sweetly carnal bisexual federal agent with a thing for women's armpits for memorability. It's also a great reminder that Patricia Arquette was once quite an engaging big screen presence with unique comic timing and dramatic spins on her scenes. (She's excellent in the upcoming Boyhood, so a comeback could be in order). Every time I watch any scene from this movie I wish everyone involved would work with David O. Russell again, but especially Jenkins, Arquette, Brolin & Tomlin. Why let Bradley Cooper & Jennifer Lawrence have all the fun?

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Reader Comments (15)

Ha good luck getting Lily Tomlin back in with DOR! Miracles needed. This is a super comedy fhough.

April 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJA

The best David O. Russell comedy. Compared to it Silver Linings Playbook looks like a TV movie, American Hustle like a loooong mess.

April 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I loved this film and never put it together that that was Brolin.

However, I feel that the bigger Russel's profile, the less his talent.

April 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Love this movie. Easily one of my favorite comedies of the last 20 years.

April 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

Agreed. This and Huckabees are his best by miles.

April 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

Russell is an awards chaser now. He use to care about his idiosyncratic auteur voice. But he seems to hate I Heart Huckabees—himself these days. I remember renting Flirting With Disaster during my Mary Taylor Moore phase—which wasn't based on anything but this movie and some TV interviews.

April 10, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

I remember watching this movie just by chance without knowing anything about it and loved it. Young Brolin really impressed me. Up to now I wasn't aware that the director was David O. Russell.

April 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterIvonne

Patricia just had a good supporting role in Boardwalk Empire. I think she would be a great Mae West.

April 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Haven't seen it in a while, but I am quite fond of this one. I think one of the reasons American Hustle worked so well (if it worked for you) was because it seemed to capture just a bit of the warmly-subversive energy of O. Russell's earlier work. Great ensemble work all around, and kudos to anything that puts Mary Tyler Moore on the big screen.

Also, Brolin is almost alarmingly pretty here. The bearded, tough silent type seems to be his default persona, so it's always good to see him switch it up (he's so good and tragic in Milk) or be reminded of his versatility (pun intended?)

April 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVal

How beautiful is Josh Brolin here? Ridiculous

April 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

I agree, Nathan, I Heart Huckabee's is a terrific comedy. I don't get why some critics hate it. I just wish it could expunge the memory of American Hustle from my brain. AHHHHHHH. That would take a metaphorical Brillo pad. LOL

April 10, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I love love love this movie "Flirting with Disaster" is a classic American comedy

April 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

My Chinese Zodiac is ruined!! Love this movie!!!

April 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

Anyone think Patricia Arquette could get some awards traction for Boyhood? I think she's super talented.

April 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

I saw this movie for the first time this year. LOVED it. So funny. Lily Tomlin talking Richard Jenkins through a trip on LSD makes me laugh every time I think about it.

April 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTB

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