It isn’t exactly Orson Welles’s The Magnificent Ambersons, but Accidental Love has quite the production history. Shot as far back as 2008 (originally titled Nailed), persistent financial troubles halted filming until director David O. Russell quit the project in 2010. Five-years on and Accidental Love has finally been completed in Russell’s absence, now credited to the pseudonymous ‘Stephen Greene’ instead.
After a botched marriage proposal at a restaurant, happy-go-not-so-lucky waitress, Alice (Jessica Biel), finds herself with a nail lodged inside her head. Her fairweather fiancé abandons ship and Alice’s lack of health insurance means that she is unable to afford the extortionate bill. Her doctors leave her with a warning that the unwanted nail may provoke irregularities in her behaviour. From bouts of rage, an urge to speak in foreign languages, to moments of uncontrollable sexual urges. All of the what-ifs are set ups to jokes later on in the film, none of which ever hit the mark.
Her conundrum takes her to Washington to entreaty her local congressman, Howard Birdwell (Jake Gyllenhaal), in what ends up feeling like a bad 30 Rock imitation mixed with ham-fisted commentary on the American healthcare system. After gaining national celebrity, one of Alice’s friends shrewdly notes, ‘Now that you’re famous it should be easy to get you some medical help!’
Save for a very amusing (and bloody) segment in which a group of girl scouts recreate Alice’s ill-advised attempts at home surgery earlier in the film, Accidental Love is almost completely devoid of humour. Kevin Hart is crowbarred into scenes in a failed attempt to remedy this.
Accidental Love boasts a large cast of actors who were no doubt brought in under the allure of working with David O. Russell but were eventually marooned with nothing but a poor script. Jake Gyllenhaal gives an off-kilter performance oddly not unlike, with the benefit of hindsight, his psychotic turn as Louis Bloom from last year’s Nightcrawler.
How much of Accidental Love’s final form is a symptom of production hell and studio interference nailing Russell to the wall or the unsound foundations laid down by the director several years ago, is at this point impossible to say with any certainty. What is clear is that Accidental Love was probably better off left on the shelf. (3)