UK Release Date: 20th July 2015
Runtime: 100 minutes
Director: Stephen Greene
Writer: Kristin Gore, Matthew Silverstein, Dave Jeser
Starring: Jessica Biel, Jake Gyllenhaal, Catherine Keener, James Marsden, Kurt Fuller, Tracy Morgan, Malinda Williams
Synopsis: A waitress must fight for her health rights in Washington when a nail becomes embedded in her brain.
Film reviewers, myself very much included, are often too keen to describe films as “defying criticism” or refusing to adhere to expectation. However, in the case of Accidental Love – a film that original director David O Russell has disowned, hence the pseudonymous credit – it’s entirely without hyperbole. This might just be the weirdest film of the year.
Shot in 2008, a litany of production and legal woes kept it in development hell for years. However, Accidental Love now finally finds its way onto DVD in the UK, via Arrow Films.
Alice (Jessica Biel) is a happy roller-blading waitress, newly engaged to handsome cop Scott (James Marsden), when a freak nail gun accident leaves her with several inches of metal stuck in her brain. Unable to have an operation due to her lack of health insurance, Alice heads to Washington to meet with congressman Howard Birdwell (Jake Gyllenhaal), who may be able to help her.
There’s something incredibly fascinating about Accidental Love, in a very morbid way. It’s like the film equivalent of slowing down as you pass a car accident – obviously awful, but oddly compelling. It’s an utter disaster, but one that has just enough genius in amongst the madness. It’s clear what it was that initially drew Russell to the project – then called Nailed – but something definitely got lost in translation amidst the more outlandish moments.
| "You will always be the guy I almost married before I got a nail in my head."
The film mostly gets by as a result of its remarkable energy. Jessica Biel and Jake Gyllenhaal both give their roles a real screwball enthusiasm that is infectious, with the Gyllenhaal of 2008 largely free of the darkness of his modern work and playing the comedy broad. Biel is a delight and Catherine Keener does a solid job as the evil representative of the political elite. Less sure-footed is Tracy Morgan, who is left with a character that plays as a racial caricature more often than not.
At its centre, Accidental Love clearly has some sort of satirical comment to make on the absurdity of the American political system, particularly in terms of healthcare. However, there’s so much bonkers blustering going on that it’s impossible to discern the film’s original satirical intention. Whether it’s James Marsden speaking almost entirely in percentages or the constant references to a military base on the Moon, the film seems to have no idea what it’s doing from one seen to the next.
There are times when it seems as if Accidental Love is trying to do more interesting things, including a mirror with Wizard of Oz that never pays off and the murder of a high-ranking politician. The entire finished project is an unruly Frankenstein’s Monster of ideas and footage, with a ramshackle visual style in which lighting seems to change at random in the middle of scenes and odd musical cues interrupt the dialogue.
| "She’s not bleeding. She could get up and walk right out of here."
As an exercise in bizarro filmmaking, Accidental Love certainly has merit and David O Russell completists will find plenty of the director’s signature footprints on the finished work. It seems destined for cult curio status and deserves to be seen, even if solely to appreciate the spectacle of a film’s production disappearing up shit creek without a canoe, let alone a paddle.
The only extra on this disc is a truly bizarre behind the scenes documentary that refuses to address the rather enormous elephant in the room. The doc paints Accidental Love as a fun, harmonious project rather than the far more interesting journey it actually took.
Pop or Poop?
As an intriguing curio to watch with some friends on a rainy evening, Accidental Love is a satisfying, entertaining ride.
However, it’s a filmmaking disaster, packed with fundamental flaws, grotesque over-acting and some truly bizarre creative decisions.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
Accidental Love is available on DVD from Monday courtesy of Arrow Films.