Directed by Stephen Greene
Opens March 20 at the AMC Empire 25
When Alice (Jessica Biel), a naïve young waitress in a small town in Indiana, is shot in the head by a nail gun, her life is upended. Her personality changes in ways that—typical of this tone-deaf film—are supposed to be funny but aren’t, at least not as they’re played out here. Uninsured and unable to afford surgery, she spots a young Congressman, Howard Birdwell (Jake Gyllenhaal) on TV and decides he can provide her and her friends with healthcare coverage. In a trek that’s part Wizard of Oz, part Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, she heads to DC with an unlikely posse: Tracy Morgan, as a man with a prolapsed anus, and Kurt Fuller, as a reverend with a boner pill-induced erection that just won’t quit. Har har.
You can’t help but wonder if David O. Russell, who began directing this movie in 2008 and quit the blighted production two years later (the director’s credit is his pseudonym), could have salvaged Accidental Love if he’d stuck with it. Surely he would have found ways in the editing room to better showcase supporting performances by Beverly D’Angelo, Bill Hader, Paul Reubens and Catherine Keener, all of whom seem to be trying to compensate for underdeveloped characters by overacting. And surely he would not have resorted to hokey things like the oom-pah-pah music behind some of the scenes, or the strenuously “happy” blooper reel the film ends with. But most of the problems with this movie could not have been fixed in post-production.
Everyone keeps talking fast and doing wacky things, as if entropy were the same thing as wit, but all that activity, paired with the tin-eared, subtext-free dialogue, only feels manic, sometimes borderline hysterical. Birdwell encourages Alice to cry by telling her “It’s like a fantastic number two,” and he declares his devotion to his constituency by saying he loves “hearing the people, smelling the people.” And the wide-eyed, broad acting style adopted by nearly all the actors makes them—particularly Biel and Gyllenhaal—look as juvenile as they sound. The best thing you can say about this hot mess is that is makes you appreciate how difficult it must be to make the controlled chaos of a good screwball comedy look so effortless.