Accidental Love

The first thing to do is to ask the obvious question: What were people thinking? Only then can one begin to reconcile the properties of a wretched work like "Accidental Love." The screenplay by Kristin Gore (based on a novel she wrote), Matthew Silverstein, and Dave Jeser alternates between two genres (political satire and romantic comedy) and two states of being (inexplicable and insufferable). The direction by Stephen Greene (a pseudonym for David O. Russell, he of 2010's "The Fighter" and 2013's "American Hustle," before the director was fired from the production) is akin to someone dangling the camera by a particularly solid string and watching it float aimlessly through a crowd of familiar faces.

The performances from those familiar faces are no better, especially as they come from actors who are clearly questioning their life choices as we watch them onscreen. Take Jessica Biel, who plays our heroine-of-sorts: Alice Eckle is a roller-skating waitress who has fallen deeply in love with a police officer (James Marsden, perhaps the only actor who escapes with some sort of dignity still intact). Before he is able to finish his marriage proposal at a snazzy restaurant, however, there is a freak industrial accident directly beside their table, and Alice leaves the restaurant with a three-inch nail planted into her head. Lack of insurance or parental support leads her to the steps of the U.S. Capitol building.

It is here when the film truly picks up the mantle of attempting satire, at which it fails spectacularly. Alice meets with a handsome Senator named Howard Birdwell (Jake Gyllenhaal, whose performance here is somehow more manic than in 2014's "Nightcrawler," though that isn't meant as a compliment in this case), who is super-busy at being super-lazy. All the good Senator wants is colored glues for the kids of the nation, and Alice's proposal of an attachment for emergency healthcare coverage to a government bill that will allow for a military base on the moon (huh?) goes down smoothly with a bit of involuntary sex that results from the neurological condition caused by the nail in Alice's head. But he's also got a ruthless House Representative (Catherine Keener, for some reason) breathing down his neck and a House Speaker (James Brolin, because why not make a fool out of him, too) who dies after choking on cookies given to him by a Girl Scout troop.

It is unclear what the film is trying to say; it is even less clear whether the film is trying to "say" anything. Whatever point it attempts to make is screamed directly unto the viewer's eardrums, resulting in a cavalcade of thematic noise. It is "satire," but only if one defines the word as if someone vomited onto a canvas and called it "funny hmmm." It is romantic comedy, but only if the comedy one prefers is of the screechy, flailing-arms sort of thing and only if the romance that makes you sweaty involves stupid characters doing dumb things in the name of superficial attraction.

The film does nothing right, and the production-related excuses (that this probably wasn't going to turn out well because it was technically ever finished following Russell's departure from the project) only hold water if there was ever anything workable in the material as presented. The evidence shows that there never really was anything to this disaster from the get-go, however. By the time Biel's character chews on a towel, Gyllenhaal's partakes of a homoerotic "spiritual journey" while wearing a diaper, and Kirstie Alley shows up as Alice's aunt to poke her partially exposed brain tissue, all hope for something less unexpectedly vile falls right off the cliff. "Accidental Love" is a nightmarish experience.

Film Information

Jessica Biel (Alice Eckle), Jake Gyllenhaal (Howard Birdwell), James Marsden (Scott), Catherine Keener (Rep. Pam Hendrickson), Tracy Morgan (Keyshawn), Kirstie Alley (Aunt Rita), Beverly D'Angelo (Helen Eckle), Jenny Gulley (Brenda), Bill Hader (Dr. Turnstall), James Brolin (Speaker Buck McCoy).

Directed by Stephen Greene and written by Kristin Gore, Matthew Silverstein, and Dave Jeser, based on the novel "Sammy's Hill" by Gore.

Rated PG-13 (sexual contact, language).

100 minutes.

Released in select cities on March 20, 2015.

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