Film Review: 'Accidental Love'

★★☆☆☆
It's the film David O. Russell walked away from and whose premise the Obama administration made pathetically redundant. After years in limbo, audiences finally get to see Accidental Love (2015), which began shooting in 2008. Dodgy financing arrangements saw the director jump ship, leaving producers to complete filming and the entire edit. Russell - careful with his words due to lawsuits - has calculated that production shut down nine times before he finally quit. Perhaps humbled and hurt by the experience, he pulled himself up by his creative bootstraps and went on to earn acclaim with a trio of audience and critic’ favourites:The Fighter (2010), Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and American Hustle (2013).

Russell intended 'Nailed', as it was titled back then, to be a healthcare comedy invoking the spirit of 1930s Frank Capra social dramas. Set among the elite of Washington DC’s biggest movers and shakers, the main fault is that the story became a dead duck when Obama fought tooth and nail to get his healthcare insurance act passed into law. The film's 'It'll never happen' message is destroyed resolutely. Because guess what? It did happen. In Accidental Love, based on a novel by Kristin Gore, daughter of former Vice President Al Gore, affordable healthcare insurance is treated like some unattainable dream. The film's chief villain, a career-obsessed former astronaut turned senator, played with amusing bitchiness by Catherine Keener, smugly declares that: "Healthcare loses; like always." But the film does have a few merits, not least the cast being on great form and the script is, on occasion, very funny.

As a young Mid-Western girl without medical insurance involved in a freak accident, in which a 3-inch nail is embedded deep inside her brain, Jessica Biel is very good. The actress plays Annie with plenty of sunshine and warmth, traits that undergo drastic revisions along way. The effects of the nail cause her to do weird stuff: like become a nymphomaniac, suffer violent outbursts or speak Portuguese. Setting off for Washington with fellow healthcare activists, Kurt Fuller's friendly priest suffering a permanent hard-on because of dodgy tablets, and Tracey Morgan's former weightlifting champion, who pressed weights until his arsehole fell out, Annie meets corrupt, chicken-liver politician, Howard Birdwell (Jake Gyllenhaal), and forms an alliance to change the whole system.

Accidental Love will become a future cult item. It's nowhere near as bad as IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes ratings would have us believe, either. Of course it's a mess, but Russell's personality can be detected now again (the zinging, overlapping dialogue and whip-pans). Pacing and certain scenes do not cut together well and the cartoonish musical score is beyond dire. Yet even with Russell on board to see his 'madCapra' farce all the way to release day, its whole raison d'être – as a political knockabout satire – would still have made the film dead on arrival at the box office. What happened? Barack Obama, that's what.

Martyn Conterio | @Cinemartyn

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