Cast: Jessica Biel, Jake Gyllenhaal, James Marsden, Tracy Morgan, Kurt Fuller, Malinda Williams, Catherine Keener, Paul Reubens, James Brolin.
Running Time: 101 minutes
Synopsis: Alice (Biel), gets a nail in her head and must travel to Washington to get help from a naive senator (Gyllenhaal).
It’s been awhile since an absolute monstrosity of a film has graced our presence. I’m not talking about excessively bad films, but the kind of films that should never have existed. Accidental Love may not be the worst film of the year, but it’s certainly the least deserving, especially when you consider its troubled past and the fact it was never truly completed. Shot back in 2008, the film, directed by David O’Russell under a pseudonym, had actors (James Caan) drop out, strikes over pay, stopping and starting of production, and finally in 2010 O’Russell left the project. Some scenes were finished without him, but it’s taken another 5 years for somebody to take the footage and edit something together.
Since running from the doomed project (originally titled Nailed), O’Russell has become an Academy Awards darling, with his films The Fighter, Silver Lining’s Playbook, and American Hustle all coming away with awards. Accidental Love never seems as though it could have been up to those levels of greatness, but there is at least a glimmer of potential in the madcap plot. Alice (Biel) ends up with a nail in her head, and due to poor health care choices, she is left with a series of mood swings and could eventually become comatose. She decides to travel to Washington after seeing Howard Birdwell (Gyllenhaal), a senator, on TV saying how he wants to help people. It’s a funny enough idea with some biting satire that could have gone a long way.
Gyllenhaal proves he would find it very hard to give a bad performance. He gives the role all he can, with excellent exaggerated facial expressions and a naivety that serves his character well. He is very convincing as a bit of yellow belly who could have made it to such a high position of power. Biel is also not terrible. She navigates around her mood swings very well, as they can often be sudden. She can be cold and calculating one second, then an emotional wreck the next. Even the supporting cast have their moments, but there is a distinct notion that nobody knows quite what they are doing. Whether we are seeing scenes controlled by soembody else, or O’Russell was preoccupied with the goings on behind the scenes is impossible to know for sure. However, there are far too many scenes that come across as rehearsals or read throughs.
The editing is both impressive and appalling. Impressive in that a film has been constructed from the footage, and appalling in that it’s still excruciatingly rough around the edges. Many scenes prematurely fade to black as an easy out for what is perhaps a series of unfinished scenes. Speaking of scenes, there are some that clearly have creative flair, such as the first sexual romp between Alice and Howard, that sees a camera rotate around an office as legs and arms flail into shot, whereas other scenes are just flat and uninteresting.
Accidental Love works best as a curiosity. A film that was never meant to be and should have been allowed to die a quiet death. Perhaps, if an in depth retrospective documentary can be paired with the film, we may have a fascinating piece that could teach people about the intricate workings of film funding and contracts. Until then though, we just have a film with ideas and rare moments of talent and class, but is ultimately a complete shambles.
Accidental Love is released today through Arrow Films.