At the start of Accidental Love, waitress Alice (Jessica Biel) seems to have it made. She is beloved at her job, and her hunky trooper boyfriend Scott (James Marsden) is poised to propose to her. But everything falls apart when a nail is accidentally driven into her head. Because she has no health insurance, Alice is forced to just keep the nail embedded in her skull, causing to behave erratically. She soon loses her job, and her boyfriend as well. She decides to go to Washington to try and get help from her congressman Howard Birdwell (Jake Gyllenhaal). And she soon discovers just how absurd trying to pass Healthcare can be.
It might help to know that this movie was originally slated to be released in 2008, well before Barack Obama came into office and made Healthcare a primary issue. It might also help to know that the director Stephen Greene is actually David O. Russell working under a pseudonym, the director having disavowed the film after leaving it over issues of non-payment of his crew and actors. It is a wonder that we are seeing this film now, well after its main source of satire has become kind of a non-issue, and with its director basically saying that it isn't even worthy of his name. The troubles of this project are easily discerned on screen, and though it isn't quite the disaster that the circumstances might suggest, it still isn't very good.
To be fair, if the movie had come out when it was supposed to, and if David O. Russell remained attached, it seems unlikely that the movie would have still worked out. The movie just isn't that smart. It basically blurts all of its issues out loud, it scenes lacking dramatic and comedic value as characters go into lengthy explanations concerning the conflicts at hand. There is some insight in what is being said, but it often feels as though the film is just cynically yelling into the void, unable to conceive of possibilities beyond the pessimistic outcomes presented in the movie. There is some value to the absurdist depiction of Washington DC, but it doesn't quite get to a point where it feels trenchant.
The movie doesn't work very well as a straightforward romance. The plot is largely built on the relationship that grows between Alice and the congressman, but the movie doesn't really seem to care if their romance is credible in any way. It just treats it as another piece of nonsense, most of their initial interactions governed not by actual emotion but by the twists of behavior enabled by the nail in Alice's head. The film tries to build drama in the end around the feelings between the two, but it never treats them seriously enough to make any of that work.
The best looking bit of the movie is the very start, which benefits from retro style. But that's mostly dropped as the movie goes on, the production getting more generic as it heads towards its conclusion. To the credit of the cast, they do a pretty good job of embracing the weirdness of this movie. Jessica Biel doesn't have the greatest comedic timing, but her wide-eyed expression is perfect for what Alice is going through. Jake Gyllenhaal is excellent as well, showing off a bit of manic energy that would eventually serve him well in later roles, like his wonderful turn in Nightcrawler.
Accidental Love probably would have felt uneven at best in 2008. Though it addresses interesting material through a very unique satirical lens, it doesn't feel entirely thought through. Released now, eight years later, with two whole presidential terms having passed it, the movie feels terribly inessential. This is really just out there because money has already been spent, and the producers need to get something back. But it's likely that none of the creative people involved want this movie out there. It would be prudent to respect those wishes. Though there are sparks of something in this movie, it feels like a salvage job at best.
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