Accidental Love (2 stars)

Accidental Love

Disowned, disastrous David O Russell movie, with Jessica Biel and Jake Gyllenhaal

Accidental Love is the David O Russell movie we never thought we’d see. Originally called ‘Nailed’ and loosely based on Kristin Gore's novel Sammy's Hill, it was shot back in 2008 – before the triple whammy of The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle turned Russell into one of Hollywood’s hottest properties – but was never completed due to financial problems. Now it’s been dug from the vaults, finished and polished off with a rather bland title change. How much of it is Russell’s vision is hard to say (he’s taken his name off it, replaced by the Alan Smithee-like pseudonym ‘Stephen Greene’); certainly it lacks his usual bite.

The story begins as small-town waitress Alice Eckle (Jessica Biel) is about to be proposed to by her cop fiancé Scott (James Marsden) when a freak accident leaves her with a nail lodged in her brain. Unable to afford the $150,000 operation to have it removed, and with no health insurance, her life begins to spiral. Her beau leaves her and she begins to suffer from violent mood swings, depression and loss of inhibitions – causing her to throw herself at duplicitous politician Howard Birdwell (Jake Gyllenhaal).

After their brief hook-up, Alice joins Howard in campaigning for healthcare reforms to make provision for such random occurrences. Made prior to the 'ObamaCare' Affordable Care Act, the satiric barbs at White House policymakers are dated, while the absurdist comedy – something Russell has long specialised in – often misses its targets.

At least the supporting cast is intriguing – Bill Hader, Catherine Keener and Kirstie Alley all pop up – while Biel has rarely had a better leading part. But it’s not hard to see why Russell washed his hands of the unfinished cut; it would’ve been better left as the mysterious movie we never saw than the half-baked one we're lumbered with now.

Selected release from Fri 19 Jun.

Accidental Love

  • 2 stars
  • 2015
  • US
  • 1h 40min
  • PG
  • Directed by: David O Russell
  • Cast: Jessica Biel, Raymond L Brown Jr, Jake Gyllenhaal
  • UK release: 19 June 2015

When waitress Alice (Biel) gets a nail lodged in her brain, her life spins out of control. Writer/director Russell shot this back in 2008, but it was never completed and he's removed his name from this rush-release. Biel has seldom had a better role but you can see why Russell washed his hands of this half-baked mess.