Accidental Love Review
Production limbo is a place from which sometimes even the best of films don’t escape. That is probably where David O. Russell was hoping Accidental Love (2015), his latest film to be released on DVD, would be staying. Originally called Nailed and with a high concept plot involving a woman with a nail embedded in her brain, this dark comedy went into production way back in 2008, with Russell in the director’s chair. Yet financial woes led to the project being started and stopped several times, before being abandoned altogether. Fast forward several years and what has finally emerged is the weakly titled Accidental Love, a bizarre Frankenstein’s monster of a film created from scenes shot several years ago, ones filmed more recently, and so many opposing genres it’ll make your head spin.
Promoted as a rom-com, yet really anything but, Accidental Love opens promisingly, thrusting us into a vibrant bubble gum style world reminiscent of a John Waters’ film, where we meet Alice (Jessica Biel) a roller skating waitress about to become engaged to the love of her life (James Marsden). Yet said accident soon puts a stop to that, especially when she can’t have the offending item removed as she has no medical insurance.
With a script adapted from Kristin Gore’s novel Sammy’s Hill, the film speeds along at such a rapid pace that it’s hard to keep up with the plot details that follow anyway. But the basic gist is that with no other choice and the nail causing her to act strangely (random bouts of anger and nymphomania), Alice travels to Washington to campaign on behalf of those with strange injuries, where she quickly meets Congressman Howard Birdwell (Jake Gyllenhaal) and even more quickly starts to fall in love with him. Yet while this fast-paced style has worked well in David O. Russell’s other films, specifically Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and American Hustle (2013), here the quick, witty dialogue and rapid-fire scenes are a mess, bizarrely played, and at worst, completely nonsensical.
Ah yes: David O. Russell – the thorny issue in this film’s side. Russell himself abandoned the film in the early stages, not even allowing his name to be attached to it in its final release (the fictional Stephen Greene is credited as having directed it instead). All that’s left are glimpses of him in the sparse extras of this DVD release (a simple Behind The Scenes shot before his departure and in which everyone praises him…of course) and a few scenes you can recognise as having been directed by him if you’re familiar with his filmmaking style. At some of the film’s worst parts though the game of ‘Has Russell Shot This?’ becomes rather easy, with missing shots, shoddily assembled scenes and messy camerawork all pointing to the fact that these moments were clearly directed by someone with little experience behind a camera. Neither helping to immerse you is the inclusion of an overly loud, whimsical score that invades nearly every scene and is so off-putting you wish this DVD release came with subtitles so you could watch it on mute.
Yet the real nail in this film’s coffin (excuse the pun) is the tone of it. Is it a rom-com? A satire? A drama? Accidental Love straddles all of these genres and more, flitting between each just as fervently as that fast-paced plot. Genre hybrids can work well if done correctly, but here it seems as though it’s a lazy method being used to tick as many boxes as possible in order to earn the film more viewers.
To search for any good points about Accidental Love is a stretch, but they are there if you look hard enough. The cast just about keep it watchable, especially Jake Gyllenhaal, Catherine Keener and James Marsden who all have fun in their larger-than-life roles. Jessica Biel also makes the most of her leading role and is convincing in the few touching parts of the narrative. And clever comments on the state of US healthcare, although a little on the nose, do seem as relevant as ever. Yet all of this is drowned out by the film’s many problems.
Shades of I Heart Huckabees (2004) still give away that this is (or WAS) a David O. Russell film, despite him dropping his name from it. But while that film was deep and nuanced, with a dose of the bizarre, this is just downright bizarre. With a frustratingly inconsistent tone, messy script and editing, and an anger-inducing score, this is a dull watch, despite the plot’s rapid pace. When Accidental Love eventually does end, you can’t help but wonder just how differently it might have been had the original version of Nailed worked out. It surely can’t have been as bad as this end result anyway.
The DVD is serviceable – an average (for 2015) transfer with the usual surround track that for the most part does what is expected; it's not a system seller but we can't complain.