CINEMA: POST-IT MODERNISM

DURING A PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, WHEN THE AIR is thick with pieties about American virtue and the maintenance thereof, it is useful to be reminded that America's private life has always been a lot more entertaining than its public life. The instrument of our deliverance from this year's cant and hypocrisy is a deadpan, dead-on movie called Flirting with Disaster. In it an earnest young fellow named Mel Coplin (Ben Stiller), who has been raised by adoptive parents, sets out to find his birth parents. It's a perfectly reasonable thing to do, since the former are, respectively, a screeching bundle of nerves...

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