Looking through his filmography, it's clear that director David O Russell embraces mixing genres within his movies, and for the most part, it's a method that has worked very well for him over the years. His Oscar-winning film Silver Linings Playbook wonderfully balanced comedic scenes with surprisingly well-executed dance routines and touching dramatic moments, while American Hustle was another success that saw him amalgamate elements of flashy con-man movie, deep character studies and even romance.
However, Accidental Love doesn't quite possess the same seamless, polished feel as his more recent pictures, undoubtedly stemming from its turbulent production that began way back in 2008 when the political comedy (then entitled Nailed), originally started filming. Shortly after it had begun shooting, the movie ran into financing problems which subsequently caused it to put on the back-burner, and Russell abandoning the project, two years later.
However, now five years on, it's haphazardly made it's way to public release, back under the control of Russell (even if he did go under the pseudonym Stephen Greene, on the credits) with a finished product that is hard to know whether it was simply rushed as it fumblingly approached the finish line or whether it was merely a case of "too many hands spoil the broth" of film-equivalence, so to speak.
The plot centres on Alice (Jessica Biel), a small-town roller-waitress who travels to Washington DC after she gets hit in the head with a nail and finds herself unable to pay for the surgery to remove it. Suffering from unpredictable behaviour, terrible mood swings and inhibition loss due to temporary brain damage, she embarks on a steamy affair with charming-yet-clueless senator Howard (Jake Gyllenhaal), who promises to back legislation of free healthcare, if she helps him thwart a lunar military base bill that is being proposed by his ruthless rival Rep. Pam Hendrickson (Catherine Keener).
While the storyline sounds fairly straight-forward, it soon becomes a mess when Alice and Howard's only support comes from aggravatingly perky girl scouts and Alice's friends Keyshawn and Reverend Norm who have their own bizarre medical conditions of their own.
The film seems reminiscent of Russell's earlier works like the unusual I Heart Huckabees – which had bemused audiences not really knowing what on earth was going on but finding themselves giggling and entertained throughout none-the-less. Unfortunately for this film, it plants itself heavily into the former description as it not only struggles to identify what it wants to be but completely misses the satirical humour it is so obviously trying to achieve. However, it does have some rare moments that make you think it could have worked given the right treatment.
For example, if Alice had been surrounded with brilliant, serious people in terms of secondary characters, her out-of-place and chuckle-worthy symptoms such as randomly speaking in Portuguese and overt sexual advances at inappropriate moments would have been hilarious. Evidently though, the film-makers missed a trick and lost such obvious moments of hilarity by placing the lead in a world of equally dimwitted, eccentric morons who act in almost the exact same way – despite having no nails lodged in their brains, rendering what is happening to Alice hardly noticeable, let alone funny.
Not only does it come across as farcical either but while it's probably fair to say that this film is clearly aiming for more laughs than attempting to make any kind of political statement, it even trips up somewhat in that department thanks to its long-time reaching cinemas. Between the time of its conception and its release, Obamacare has been instated in the US, diminishing the poignancy of a young woman fighting for better healthcare and without this emotional backing, it's hard to emphasise with Alice's plight at all.
Much like Huckabees, Accidental Love boasts an equally impressive cast, with star-studded names including James Marsden, Kurt Fuller, Tracy Morgan and Kirstie Alley as well as the three well-known leads, and unsurprisingly as a collective, they are the best part of the movie.
Marsden and Gyllenhaal in particular juggle the childish gags commendably well and in their joint scenes, manage to earn a laugh, even if they do turn out to be awkward ones. We've seen them both play characters like this before though; Marsden's Scott being an odd mash-up of Corny Collins from Hairspray, Criss from television series 30 Rock and Enchanted's vain Prince Edward. Gyllenhaal's cocky yet disillusioned congressman also appears familiar at times too, giving off the same vibe as his manic, wide-eyed representation of journalist Louis Bloom in last year's Nightcrawler, but without the dynamic and the thrilling storyline to support his bizarre character it just comes across annoying.
Trainwreck's Bill Hader also has a incredibly short scene-stealing moment as the doctor who abandons Alice's surgery part-way through after finding out she doesn't have insurance, which results in him having a full-blown rant about how he is "sick" of people waltzing into the hospital expecting emergency treatment for free whilst he comically starts chopping on a hamburger. It feels a little Green Wing, and for a second, the film appears on the turn-around. But sadly, even brief glimmers of great performances are unable to reign in the scattered plot and off-kilter jokes for the majority of the film.
Accidental Love is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from 20 July.