Genre: Comedy, Romance
Directed by: David O. Russell (as Stephen Greene)
Starring: Jessica Biel, James Marsden, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jenny Gulley
Accidental Love takes an already ridiculous concept and takes it to even more levels of absurdity with each new development. It’s kitschy, nonsensical, and just plain hard to take seriously, even with the underlying moments of social commentary running throughout hinting at the kind of movie this film could have been – or at least wanted to be.
Jessica Biel stars as Alice Eckle, a roller-skating waitress who goes out for dinner with her soon-to-be fiancé Scott (James Marsden) only to be involved in a freak nail-gun accident that leaves a nail lodged in her brain and Alice with no money or health insurance to get it out again. As Scott calls off the engagement until her head is fixed again, Alice travels to Washington D.C. to lobby her cause to Congressman Howard Birdwell, the charismatic but clueless politician played head-scratchingly by Jake Gyllenhaal.
From its obscure concept to its baffling star cast, Accidental Love is just filled with moments that make you stop and wonder what exactly is happening here. Alice’s journey from small-town waitress to national media celebrity sees her hijack a funeral and join forces with a small army of Shakira-deprived Girl Scouts to further her political agenda and threaten that of the lady astronaut House Whip who just wants to build a military base on the moon.
In short, this film is bizarre, and that’s putting it mildly. The screwball comedy is more often at odds with its ventures into social satire than it is supported by them, resulting in the disjointed creation of a film that doesn’t know what it is intending to say torn as it is between social critique and romantic comedy. It’s also a film that feels dated – it was filmed seven years ago back in 2008 and its attempted criticism of American healthcare, corrupt politics and bumbling democracy falls short in a 2015-world post-Obamacare and House of Cards.
Nevertheless, Biel puts on a good show in the increasingly implausible situations Alice finds herself in and Marsden’s supporting stint as the statistics-focused state trooper ex-boyfriend is one of the truly comedic roles in the entire film. Even Gyllenhaal’s adorably inept Congressman has enough standout moments to warrant his involvement with the film. The resulting love triangle the trio find themselves in also provides an entertaining arc to the political proceedings, even if it was rather played out.
Accidental Love was directed by David O. Russell back when it was known as Nailed. The film was abandoned due to ongoing financial reasons in 2008 with Russell officially quitting the project in 2010, and was eventually completed without his involvement. Despite its tumultuous production history and its surprising cast usually being enough of a talking point to encourage a curious viewer or two, Accidental Love still has a long way to go to convince an audience it’s worth seeing.