Words: Brody Rossiter
FINAL. NAIL. COFFIN.
It’s difficult to know where to begin with Accidental Love, so let’s start at the beginning; the bizarre, distasteful, goofball beginning. Jessica Biel stars as Alice Eckle, a small-town waitress who after being accidentally shot in the head with a nail gun (in the kookiest, Farrelly Brothers-esque manner possible of course), is refused treatment due to not having health insurance. This lack of medical intervention leads to Alice developing wild mood swings and random bouts of hyper-sexuality. However, the solution to Alice’s predicament rests in Washington in the form of Congressman Howard Birdwell (Jake Gyllenhaal), an altruistic beacon of fresh-faced hope in an otherwise heartless capital.
David O. Russell’s directorial exploits are infamously chequered. While his last three pictures, The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle have understandably courted Oscars and wooed audiences with their infectious energy and robust characterisation, multiple past controversies surrounding production woes and public falling-outs with high-profile cast and crew have painted the director as somewhat unlikeable and unhinged. Such struggles also plagued Accidental Love’s production when filming first began in 2008. After a series of financial failings and further squabbles on-set, O. Russell abandoned the project in 2010, leading to the director’s credit now bearing the pseudonym, “Stephen Greene”. How much of this supposed “wacky rom-com” can be attributed to him is a mystery, the reasons why he abandoned this joyless ship of fools are not.
The most immediately noticeable shortcoming of Accidental love is just how ugly its greasy colour palette is; a collage of oversaturated yellows, browns and greens accentuated by amateurish lighting that bounces back off sweating foreheads and shrouds most of the frame in shadow. The entire picture resembles the bottom of a deep fat fryer that hasn’t had its oil changed for many months and now holds the cremated artefacts of artery clogging meals within its unctuous bath.
It’s astonishing just how poorly the picture is filmed. The seasick camera relentlessly floats around, bobbing back and forth while struggling to find a depth of field that works within the scene. Clearly such cinematography was intended to represent Alice’s mild delirium post nail to the brain; instead, the cast appear to be moments away from breaking out the rum and launching into a rendition of ‘Drunken Sailor’. Scenes are blatantly stitched together with whatever could be swept up from the cutting room floor. In turn, the entire picture feels irritatingly unfinished and forced together.
The film’s only redeeming factor rests in the innate charisma and charm of Biel, Gyllenhaal and James Marsden’s self-obsessed Indiana state trooper. The lead trio somehow manage to force laughs from even the most cringeworthy scripting, in the process conjuring a momentary pleasure that quickly recedes leaving only shame in its wake. The film may well have been disowned by its director, but several scenes still exhibit his knack for assembling and choreographing an ensemble.
This sorry salvage mission of a movie could have perhaps been a happy accident; instead it unveils itself as a manic and depressive hodgepodge of filmmaking mediocrity masquerading as pre-ObamaCare sociopolitical commentary. Had the finished product been more polished on the surface, perhaps its many inadequacies could have been overlooked. Instead, they are left exposed and unfiltered, providing a prime example of Hollywood filmmaking at its most uninspired and dysfunctional.