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Accidental Love

Millennium Entertainment // PG-13 // April 28, 2015
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted April 15, 2015 | E-mail the Author
I think it was the record scratch.

I hadn't enjoyed so much as a minute of Accidental Love leading up to it, but that dragged needle skkkrrrcccczzzkkkk -- the bellweather of hack comedy -- punctuating a "wait, what?!" in a hallway conversation was when I realized I was indeed waist-deep in the seventh circle of cinematic hell. Before suffering through this cobbled-together resurrection of a third-trimester abortion, I assumed that David O. Russell abandoned what was once titled Nailed out of some artistic temperment. The film was, after all, plagued with financial difficulties, stopping and starting over and over and over and over. There was little doubt in my mind that the growing army of producers and financiers were preventing Russell from seeing his vision through, two years of stop-and-go production can't help but stomp on anything resembling momentum or creative enthusiasm, and...well, this was supposed to be his follow-up to I Heart Huckabees, and again, artistic temperment. Escaping into theaters some eight years after its cameras first started rolling, Accidental Love is not a film worthy of romanticizing or wondering "what if...?". If Russell had perservered and seen the project through to completion, it still would've been awful. Less awful, I'm sure -- no record scratch, a more inspired score, editing with something resembling comedic timing -- but awful just the same.

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Most any review of Accidental Love you're likely to read focuses on the chaos on the other side of the curtain because, well, that's so much more interesting than the film itself. Think Mr. Smith Goes to Washington by way of Tracy/Hepburn slapstick, then filter it through one of those PSA comic books where Spider-Man dukes it out with a guy who has cigarette powers, and you're somewhere in the ballpark.

Jessica Biel stars as Alice, a whirling dervish of a rollerskating carhop. As luck would have it, she's in the middle of a romantic proposal at the ritziest restaurant in town. Well, it'd be more romantic if a contractor weren't plugging away at that gondola hanging from the ceiling. It'd be a lot more romantic if the guy hadn't taken a tumble and accidentally blasted Alice in the head with a nailgun. Don't sweat it! The nail did lodge its way through her skull and into her brain, but it hasn't punctured anything critical. If it's jostled so much as a millimeter, though, then Alice might start behaving kind of strangely. Oh, you know: explosive bursts of temper, randomly speaking in Portuguese, pouncing onto anything with a functioning wiener... Since the price tag for getting the nail surgically removed is $150,000 and that '50s throwback diner where Alice works doesn't offer health care as one of its perks, she's kinda screwed. (Get it?! Nail in her head, and she's screwed? Why am I not on Accidental Love's payroll?) Anyway, Alice makes a beeline to Washington with a couple of the other medical freakshows in town, hoping that their friendly neighborhood congressman (Jake Gyllenhaal) can legislate 'em out of this bucket of syrup. You've gotta give something to get something in this town, so Rep. Birdwell has Alice stump for a military base on the moon first. If you're wondering how a moonbase gets her any closer to that nail being yanked out of her head, then, yeah, Alice is right there with you. All sorts of wacky political shenanigans ensue! Legions of Shakira-doting not-Girl-Scouts! Kinda-sorta murder! That preacher's boner that just won't go away! Tracy Morgan doing very routine Tracy Morgan-esque schtick with a distended anus! A way-shirtless Jake Gyllenhaal proving how much of a man he is in the fire pits! Oooooh, and do I detect a little romance? Yes. Yes, I do.

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So, what was once Nailed is now saddled with the aggressively forgettable title of Accidental Love, although it could've just been called Universal Health Care: The Motion Picture. There have been many, many films over the years that have championed one cause or another, deftly weaving a certain plight into its premise to heighten awareness and support. Accidental Love takes a different tack, grabbing its audience by the shoulders and violently throttling them, screaming "emergency health care!" for 100 minutes until eardrums rupture and blood starts trickling down onto our shoulders. This isn't some kneejerk political reaction where I'm audible-gasp offended that someone has a different opinion. I agree one hundred percent with the underlying premise, even. It's just that there's subtext, there's text, and then there's what Accidental Love has, which is something like carving 200 ft. letters into the side of a mountain. Hell, not even carving; blasted into the face of a mountain with dynamite. As many message movies as I've watched over the years, I can't think of one that's so heavy-handedly preached at me for nearly its entire runtime the way this monstrosity has.

That's just one of an endless number of sins committed by Accidental Love. The lack of subtlety extends to its bug-eyed slapstick and ha-ha-boners-and-rectums-and-the-little-girl-said-'orgasm' sense of humor. There's not a single, worthwhile laugh lurking anywhere throughout Accidental Love. I'm a sucker for slapstick and political skewering, but too much of what's meant to pass for comedy here reeks of desperation and flopsweat. Despite David O. Russell abandoning the project, there was apparently something close enough to a completed movie in the can, and Accidental Love does indeed have a beginning, middle, and end. The editing lacks any real comedic rhythm, though, and some clumsy scene transitions and the way dialogue is a little too frequently delivered off-camera leave me certain that reshoots really would've helped. On the other hand, the incomplete footage means we get awesomely terrible digital face replacement of Jessica Biel at one point, and at least that's a sight to behold. I appreciate how game the cast is -- Biel first and foremost, a spastic Jake Gyllenhaal, Catherine Keener at her conniving best, James Marsden, Kurt Fuller, Tracy Morgan, Kirstie Alley, Beverly D'Angelo, Paul Reubens, James Brolin, and, um, my brother-in-law (no kidding!) -- but despite their best efforts, they're not able to elevate such substandard material. In the cases of Fuller and Morgan, as much as I like 'em in general, they manage to make an already bad movie even worse. The score is dreadful, heavy-handedly punctuating the madcap hilarity with waaaah-wuuuggggh muted trumpets and drenching the romantic bits in insufferably syrupy strings.

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The only reason to willingly subject yourself to Accidental Love is morbid curiosity. I can sympathize well enough, seeing as how that's why I'm writing this review. David O. Russell dodged a bullet by not having his name on this desperate, scenery-chewing, intolerably preachy disaster, one that should've remained dead and buried after production was halted for the last time five years ago. It's only noteworthy for the chaos behind the scenes and how it perhaps prompted Russell to shift gears as a filmmaker, garnering armfuls of Academy Award nominations for the three movies he's made since. Accidental Love can't rightly be evaluated on its own merits because, frankly, it doesn't have any. Skip It.


Video
Accidental Love was filmed in fits and starts, and it's saddled with a wildly erratic presentation to match. Some sequences are dazzlingly bright and candy-colored, most memorably the '50s throwback that opens the movie as well as pretty much any shot with the Girl Squaws' blue uniforms in the frame. Too many of the interiors, meanwhile, are an almost monochromatic dirge of browns and oranges. There's surprisingly little consistency in the weight of film grain from one shot to the next. Definition and fine detail are similarly all over the place. There are plenty of times when the image is richly detailed and astonishingly well defined. Then again, numerous shots suffer from oddly-placed focus or unusually soft photography:

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Open this screenshot to full-size and take a look at Catherine Keener's eyes and...well, everything else:

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Despite being lensed almost entirely on 35mm (with a few DV cutaways), there's something about Accidental Love that looks uncomfortably digital to my eyes. "Filmic" (and, okay, "shadow detail") is not the first word that leaps to mind when I stare down at a shot like this:

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How much of this is due to its authoring on Blu-ray -- the grain is definitely not rendered well -- and how much of it is sloppy post-production work in general, I have no idea. Alternating between ghastly and gorgeous, the rightsholders for Nailed weren't able to salvage a consistently appealing presentation out of what David O. Russell left behind. Accidental Love is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and its AVC encode fits comfortably on this single layer Blu-ray disc.


Audio
If you can somehow get past a treacly score that David O. Russell would never have signed off on, Accidental Love's 24-bit Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio sounds alright. It's not big, booming, or especially cinematic, but the sound design generally does a commendable job filling every available channel with music and atmospherics. As wretched as the score is, at least it's dialed fairly low in the mix. Dialogue is consistently clean and clear throughout, and there's a nice sense of directionality with such effects as tribal chants and the nailgun that's to blame for this whole ordeal. The low-end tends to be extremely modest, although the subwoofer does reinforce a handful of kicks and punches in one "man up!" sequence pretty well. 'Sokay.

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Along for the ride are a Dolby Digital stereo track (192kbps) as well as subtitles in English (SDH) and Spanish.


Extras
Well, this won't take long.
  • Trailer (2 min.; HD): The only extra is a two minute trailer.
You could stick around through the end credits if you're aching for a blooper reel, though. There's no digital copy, combo pack, slipcover, or...well, much of anything else this time around either. About as no-frills as it gets.


The Final Word
How does that line go? When the legend becomes truth, don't dump it on VOD and Blu-ray. Nailed was far more fascinating as a troubled project abandoned by the mad genius at its helm. It's almost immediately apparent why David O. Russell disowned what would go on to be released as Accidental Love: a tin-eared, laughless slice of slapstick that relentlessly bludgeons unfortunate viewers over the head with its "health care for everyone!" message with all the subtlety of a 1973 afterschool special. We're talking about a cause I'm very much in favor of, even, and Accidental Love is so clumsy and aggressive about it that I'm almost embarrassed to agree with its stance. I completely understand the allure of seeking out David O. Russell's lost film, but some things really are best left buried and forgotten. Skip It.
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