Those no way of talking about Accidental Love without giving a quick history on the making of it. Started in 2008 under the direction of David O. Russell who was between his I Heart Huckabees quirkiness and his renaissance with The Fighter. Production stalled after financiers ran out of money and the Screen Actors Guild pulled all of the actors out of the project until they would get paid. They never were and so the film sat, shelved with major scenes unfilmed until it was picked up last year and edited without these scenes ever being completed and without Russell’s involvement.
So seven years later down the road we have Accidental Love. Now an intriguing folly if only for it’s production troubles. The end result clearly didn’t impress Russell who has had his name taken off the finished product and goes by the handle of Stephen Greene.
In brief; it tells the quirky story of Alice (Jessica Biel) a rollerskating waitress, happily in love police office Scott (James Marsden). At a romantic meal together she ends up with a nail, fired from a nail gun inbedded in her head. With no insurance to cover her operation she seeks help from her congress representative Howard Birdwell (Jake Gyllenhall) in the hopes that he will help pass a bill for universal healthcare and who-wudda-thunk-it they fall in love.
So is Accidental Love the complete cluster-muck it’s reputation may have you think? Nearly yes. An unfortunate side-effect of its long delayed release is that the plot itself has become a relic. Since the US now has a reformed health care system the main plot device no longer functions as a plot device as Alice would be able to get that darned nail removed lickety-split. The other issues is the film’s quirkiness. Oh God the quirkiness. It’s one of those films that beats you around the head telling you “BEHOLD COMEDY YOU PEON LAUGH!”. From the incessantly whimsical score down to the camera angles which tilt as though the camera was being held by a delightfully confused puppy the comedy is being squeezed from all pores.
The cast too are to blame in this charade. Everyone puts in spirited performances, no doubt, but everyone is full zany, wide-eyed mode. Everyone either seems to be panicking or playing it calm with “hilarious” consequences. So there is every possibility that the film would have been a fiasco if released back in 2008. Russell’s earlier output; Spanking the Monkey, Flirting With Disaster and aforementioned Huckabees were all over-the-top comedies that tread the line of being irksome rather than chucklesome. It’s only with his last three films that he’s become a fine dramatic director.
That’s not to say there is nothing to be enjoyed here. So much is thrown at the story in terms of coming up with out-of-place scenes that some of them are quite amusing. James Marsden’s fairweather boyfriend is a highlight and if you enjoy Tracey Morgan’s schtick there’s enough of that on show. The much under-appreciated Kurt Fuller (Russell in Wayne’s World) is given a chance to shine as a reverend who accompanies Alice to the capital. Plus an entire subplot of Catherine Keener’s senator’s desire for a moon-base is just the right side of ridiculous. Not an a total catastrophe, a few smiles may be raised but there’s no mistake Accidental Love is a grand folly.
Dir: David O. Russell (as Stephen Greene)
Scr: Kristin Gore, Matthew Silverstein, Dave Jeser
Starring: Jessica Biel, Jake Gyllenhaal, Kurt Fuller, James Marsden, Tracey Morgan, Catherine Keener, Beverley D’Angelo, Paul Reubens, Kirstie Alley, Josh Brolin
Prd: Kia Jam, Judd Payne, Matthew Rhodes
DOP: Max Malkin
Music: John Siwhart
Year: 2008 (completed 2015)
Run time: 100 mins
Accidental Love is available to download or rent on Digital Monday 6 July and on DVD Monday July 20th via Arrow Films.