Nailed was to be David O. Russell’s similarly-toned follow-up to his existential 2004 comedy I Heart Huckabees, but following financial disruptions to its 2008 shoot (shutting the production down four times), Russell eventually walked from the project in 2010, his reputation already suffering after videos of tension on the Huckabees set had been leaked to YouTube. Five years later, with a name change and a marketing rebranding shifting the emphasis from political satire to romantic comedy, Accidental Love is finally being released.
Co-written with Al Gore’s daughter Kristin and based upon her novel Sammy’s Hill, Accidental Love takes the post-Charlie Kaufman-esque premise of a waitress who has a nail accidentally lodged in her head during a surprise dinner proposal and turns it into a treatise on the American healthcare system, as Alice (Jessica Biel) becomes an unintentional poster girl for socialist politics having fallen in with Jake Gyllenhaal’s inept Congressman Howard Birdman. Russell fills what follows with as many eccentric diversions and arch performances as we might expect given the rest of his oeuvre, creating what looks like a Hollywood movie but behaves like an independent, oozing cynicism from every frame. And in spite of having had his name removed from the film, there is no disguising its provenance as David O. Russell’s work, with the short bonus feature filled with testimony to his genius. The film is as riddled with rapid one-liners, overlapping dialogue and free-associative performances as earlier hits like Flirting With Disaster and even Three Kings, and although the comedy includes as many misses as it does hits, Accidental Love is firmly of a standard with Russell’s previous films.
As to whether it’s any good, your mileage will inevitable vary. Accidental Love is not for those who value political correctness, nor for anyone who feels alienated when presented with ostensible digressions, the tightness of the plotting and characterisation being quite heavily disguised amid a welter of unconventionality. Russell’s apparent penchant for 1950s cinema gives it a strangely ornate, almost Douglas Sirkian ambience that belies the modernity of the way it treats its subject matter, again a theme of his career.
The cast is certainly giving it their everything, however, with Jessica Biel creating an uncomplicated and yet transfixing presence in Alice, caught between the extremes of Gyllenhaal’s ingénue and James Marsden’s redneck jock. Even the peripheral characters are solid and distinctive, a further signature of Russell’s work, and the resolutions are a mark of testimony to a script which inconspicuously lays out all the groundwork for a surprisingly conventional ending.
Ultimately hampered by an unavoidably inconsistent production, it’s a shame that Accidental Love has crawled out probably only to be forgotten, as it’s an unexpectedly engaging and entertaining film.
Special Features: Behind the scenes
ACCIDENTAL LOVE / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: DAVID O. RUSSELL (AS STEPHEN GREENE) / SCREENPLAY: DAVID O. RUSSELL, KRISTIN GORE, MATTHEW SILVERSTEIN, DAVE JESER / STARRING: JESSICA BIEL, JAKE GYLLENHAAL, CATHERINE KEENER, JAMES MARSDEN, TRACY MORGAN, KURT FULLER, KIRSTIE ALLEY, JAMES BROLIN / RELEASE DATE: JULY 20TH