Accidental Love Review
It seems that most involved with the making of Accidental Love would much rather forget the film's existence. Its semi-director David O. Russell (credited under Stephen Greene) quit the project in 2010, two years after the beginning of a production blighted by financial difficulties. The film was completed without him. Accidental Love attempts to satirise both the US healthcare system before Obama’s reform, and the nefariousness of DC political manoeuvring. Sadly, it completely misses the mark. By veering too far into the absurd, it fails to be relevant to the world it attempts to mock and simply isn’t funny. Forays into slapstick and below the belt humour worsen the lot.
Accidental Love starts off with Alice (Jessica Biel), a waitress at a sixties retro café, who, on the night of her engagement to policeman Scott (James Marsden), gets shot in the head with a nail gun. Alice is naïve yet clever; Biel manages to convey her progression through the film convincingly, while Marsden’s Scott is a flawlessly acted egoistical idiot, railing off probability numbers as a hobby and grinning through utter selfishness. When the hospital discovers that Alice has no healthcare insurance, the surgeons gleefully step away from her. What is most frightening is that their reaction, under the veneer of exaggerated humour, is rather accurate: tired of twenty-somethings expecting to be treated for free, while they in turn can be sued for their work. The scene is one of the best in the film.
Desperate to get the nail removed, which is now causing fits of rage, loss of inhibitions, and spates of speaking Portuguese, Alice tries everything for cash; fundraisers, her parents, her fiancé, but one has any money - or is willing to give it. On seeing her local representative on television, she determines to go to Washington DC with two friends facing similar conditions, to demand better healthcare provision.
Said representative, Howard Birdwell (a convincing Jake Gyllenhaal) is an idiot in equal measure to Scott, and a party puppet. From their meeting onwards, Alice gets entangled in a sequence of events escalating in absurdity, involving a military base on the moon, girl scouts, a funeral, and masculinity rituals. Watching politicians ruthlessly working to their interests might occasionally raise a smile; but Alice’s journey through Washington DC is too surreal to feel relatable, and not sufficiently well written to be funny. As a result, the preposterous chain of events gets boring fast. The film’s worst fault, however, is that its characters are too corrupt, cowardly or silly to be deserving of any empathy. Consequently, it’s difficult to care about what happens to any of them.
One might wonder why anyone would have gone anywhere near the project in the first place; but perhaps with better conditions during its production, and a solid re-write, the film could have been okay. As it stands, it’s a comedy that fails to be funny; a romance far from romantic; and a satire a long way from being relevant. If anything, Accidental Love can serve as reassuring reminder that even the greats aren’t infallible.