Billed simply as a “star-studded, wacky romantic comedy,” ACCIDENTAL LOVE is actually many things. On one hand it is just that, a rom-com caper, albeit a particularly silly one, yet on the other hand it attempts to be more complex.
Alice Eckle (Jessica Biel) is the ultimate airhead on wheels, a ditsy roller-waitress in a backwater state. In the middle of a marriage proposal from her boyfriend Scott (James Marsden) in a restaurant, she suffers extreme misfortune at the wrong end of a nail gun; and her doctor tells her he cannot remove the nail embedded in her brain due to her lack of health insurance. Apparently in the absence of the $150,000 required to fix the problem, the nail can stay; it just means some convenient-for-comedy side-effects including loss of inhibitions, periods of unpredictable incandescent rage and random switches to foreign language learnt in childhood. The day gets worse for Alice when Scott decides he cannot deal with the “in sickness” component of his future vows and swiftly dumps her before they have even left the hospital.
In an unexpected stroke of luck for a girl with a nail in the head, she hears equally brainless congressman Howard Birdwell (Jake Gyllenhaal) has pledged “to help all the people.” So that’s it, she is off to Washington DC, joined by two further hapless individuals with unfortunate injuries, to join Birdwell in petitioning for a catastrophic health care bill to provide medical help for people like them. In favour of the bill, surely there are not that many victims of ridiculous accidents that would require this type of coverage.
As the fairly lightweight story plays out, there are various attempts to find humour in a raft of serious issues such as the lack of integrity and abundance of self-interest in U.S. Politics, the misuse of public funds, racial stereotypes, homophobia, sexual objectification, promiscuity… you name it, it is probably in there. As Alice’s symptoms are thrown into the mix – random outbursts in Portuguese, an inability to keep her hands off the limp and feckless Howard – ACCIDENTAL LOVE becomes an accident risk in itself. The film seems a strange choice for multiple Academy Award, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominated Gyllenhaal who has slowly been building a back catalogue of critically-acclaimed projects. Although perhaps not such a strange choice for Biel, who previously appeared in NEW YEAR’S EVE, which has definite parallels with this film.
ACCIDENTAL LOVE was disowned by original director, Academy Award nominee David O. Russell (AMERICAN HUSTLE, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK) due to “difficulties with financing.” The film was completed without Russell’s involvement and credited to a pseudonym “Stephen Greene” – but its two big Hollywood names, Gyllenhaal and Biel, might be enough to save it.