Accidental Love, 2015.
Directed by David O. Russell (as Stephen Greene).
Starring Jessica Biel, Jake Gyllenhaal, James Marsden, Catherine Keener, Tracy Morgan and James Brolin.
A small town waitress gets a nail accidentally lodged in her head causing unpredictable behavior that leads her to Washington, D.C., where sparks fly when she meets a clueless young senator who takes up her cause – but what happens when love interferes with what you stand for?
Every other film released today seems to come with a narrative built around it, filling the minds of audiences with predestined verdicts before the film is even seen; It’s a remake, it’s a reboot, it’s a restarting franchise, it’s been pushed back, it’s blown its budget etc. In the case of Accidental Love, the chequered history to get the film seen is a story unto itself, with all involved having moved on to better things since production began in 2008. But I won’t confuse the elements which happened off-screen in my verdict of what the final output; this is a flawed but fun screwball comedy, and let no unfair negativity put you off seeing it.
If you like David O. Russell’s change of direction from 2010 onwards then you have Accidental Love to thank. Financial troubles led to wages not being paid, which led to the production being shut down reportedly nine times and shelved until now, seven years later, Russell along with star Jake Gyllenhaal are two of the most sought after names in Hollywood and the film emerges. You could rightly call it a quick cash grab attempting to cash in on the names involved, especially as all have long disowned the picture and won’t be bothered by the minuscule attention it gets, sandwiched between multi-million dollar summer tent pole releases in the UK, and you could justifiably say we’ll never know what might have been if the production had gone without a hitch (if indeed that were even possible given the director’s behaviour at that point), but similar negative accusations or ponderings can be applied to many other films, too. “Give me more robots/aliens/dinosaurs/cities destroyed/full frontal nudity” screams the studio execs (we can imagine) on so many films we see today, but they too can only be judged by what is put up on the screen, not by what might have been. So let’s not treat Accidental Love for being anything worse than that which unfolds before us, and leave the column inches out of it.
Jessica Biel gets a nail lodged in her head and she acts craaaazy for 100 minutes. Some might see this as the start and end of Accidental Love’s appeal, but I found a lot to enjoy in the satire of American healthcare and political mudslinging, with a wide cast of zany characters acting so over the top you can’t ignore the deliberate silliness of it all. To a degree it reminded me of films like Citizen Ruth or Election and Russell’s previous work at the time (Flirting With Disaster, Spanking The Monkey, I Heart Huckabee), back when he had something of a style to call his own unlike the director today who can get great performances out of a cast but appears to have lost all sense of originality and identity. I cannot say for sure of what made this final version is of Russell’s vision and what is made up from stitching together pieces, but the title sequence with Biel on roller skates, the girl scout cookies scenes, and the final courtroom scene all felt like they had Russell’s earlier styling to me. The fact remains that, whoever directed the scenes I liked, I like them and they worked well as a modern, twisted screwball comedy.
The film is undeniably as mess, with the story going off in all directions, but there was a knowingness to it which never made it feel totally unhinged. Jessica Biel has never had much of a screen presence and Jake Gyllenhaal wasn’t on his amazing run which he is on today when this film was made, so we cannot expect miracles from the leads; but James Marsden in the main supporting role is hilarious as a Biel’s selfish but too-damn-handsome to hate boyfriend, and Catherine Keener is great as the bitchy no-nonsense congresswoman. Perhaps none will look back on the experience as anything near their finest hour, but none should dismiss it as a train wreck either; I’ve seen them all in worse than this.
Without the back story, the film wouldn’t have had the critical hatred I’ve seen, and I think it needs some support for being a funny, satirical, throwaway comedy. If this makes anyones ‘worst of the year’ list then they lead a very sheltered life, cinematically speaking.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Rohan Morbey – follow me on Twitter