VOD film review: Accidental Love
Clarisse Loughrey | On 07, Jul 2015
Director: Stephen Greene
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jessica Biel, James Marsden, Catherine Keener
Watch Accidental Love online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / TalkTalk TV / Google Play / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Xbox
You know when you’re sitting there with a battery in your hand? Surrounded by friends, each daring you to take that battery and lick it? It’ll be bad, that’s assured, but can you resist? That question creeping towards consciousness: How bad, exactly, can it get? Did curiousity really kill the cat, or did it just subject it to temporary, albeit extreme, discomfort, in exchange for that liberating sense of adventure? That pioneering spirit: Is this what Roald Amundsen felt, as he clambered out of his tent and into the unforgiving landscape of Antarctica? The answer is no. But you lick the battery anyway. It’s disgusting and you regret everything.
Accidental Love is like licking a battery. It is a film so shrouded in prophetic warning that it carries with it a kind of morbid intrigue. We know it’s going to be bad, but surely it can’t be quite as bad as we think? It is, though. It’s exactly as bad as you would expect from the charred remains of David O. Russell’s abandoned 2008 project Nailed, which saw production shut down a total of 14 times before the director finally gave up and walked away, only to see its corpse slapped back into life with a hasty edit and a new name. O. Russell, unsurprisingly, disowned this unrecognisable work, this Accidental Love, and enacted the old tradition of the pseudonym: here, Stephen Greene over the usual Alan Smithee.
It’s clear from these melted remnants that O. Russell intended Nailed to, essentially, follow I Heart Huckabees’ madcap tone; itself a mildly divisive work, but at least one that’s boldly fascinating in its execution. Those founding elements remain intact: Accidental Love still presents itself as a satire on the absurdity of political self-preservation, tactical manipulation, and the general well of evil that would plague a small-town waitress seeking the aid of a congressman in passing a bill to provide emergency healthcare for the uninsured, all because she’s been accidentally shot in the head with a nail gun. Sure, it’s a little less sharp in its observations now that the Affordable Healthcare Act’s been passed, but it’s undeniably still relevant to political machinations at large.
Although there’s nothing in evidence to suggest we’re dealing with the lost, great masterpiece of David O. Russell, Accidental Love might at least have been good for a few, odd laughs: there’s promise in its depiction of a greased-up, loincloth-wearing men’s spiritual retreat, or its fake ad slamming a nine-year-old Girl Scout for spreading the “poison” of lesbianism, after getting caught holding another girl’s hand.
Yet, those things remain mere promises, marred by the movie’s rushed edit and rendered utterly soulless. Like a robot attempting to understand human love, except here, it’s simply trying to grasp the basics of comedy. Where O. Russell aimed for loose whimsy, it’s taken as a cue for the kind of simplistic wackiness usually reserved for live zoo shows. The kind where they make an orang-utan dress up like a butler and a parrot takes a dump on the audience’s head. It’s all excessive Dutch angles and kooky, japery-primed light jazz; edited with such reckless speed that not a single joke is given the space to properly land with its audience. A film cut so fast it’s in danger of causing motion sickness.
Leaving nothing in its wake but regret. Regret that you licked that battery. And regret that you now know exactly what a waste of talent Accidental Love turned out to be.