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HomeBlogPopcorn Parent Movie ReviewsFamily Movie Review: Accidental Love (PG-13)

Family Movie Review: Accidental Love (PG-13)

AccidentalLove ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewKernel Rating (out of 5): whole-popcorn-kernal

MPAA Rating: PG-13        Length: 101 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 14+. This “comedy” is about a small-town waitress who accidentally ends up with a nail stuck in her brain and who travels to Washington, D.C., to try and inspire legislation that would allow for emergency healthcare for those who can’t afford it; she’s also caught in the middle of a love triangle. There’s some cursing, rude hand gestures, jokes about poop and animal testicles, and discussion of gross medical conditions; jokes about sex, orgasms, and erections, as well as implied sex scenes and a woman seen in her bra; characters smoke cigarettes and get drunk; another character is murdered for political gain; and there is a scene with shirtless men in loincloths.

Director David O. Russell has removed his name from the film ‘Accidental Love,’ which was released without his approval, and he was right to do it. The film’s incompleteness is obvious, and its gaping plot holes and strange tone never come together into anything good.

By Roxana Hadadi

Look for filmmaker David O. Russell’s name in the credits for the film “Accidental Love” and you won’t find it anywhere. Instead, “Stephen Green” wrote and directed the film, which is finally getting released five years after Russell quit the project back in 2010, and without his permission. Russell was right to take his name off the film, though. Anyone with a connection to “Accidental Love” should try to disavow it.

An adaptation of the novel “Sammy’s Hill” by Kristin Gore, the film began production in 2008 and was troubled for a while, and when funding ran out two years later, Russell quit. Since then, the film was finished without his involvement, and you can tell: there are gaping plot holes, strange tonal inconsistencies, and disjointed character development. If you’ve seen Russell’s latest, most-successful films, specifically 2012’s “Silver Linings Playbook” and 2013’s “American Hustle,” you know his style, from the well-thought-out soundtracks to the complex emotional arcs to the presence of Jennifer Lawrence (who won an Oscar for “Silver Linings Playbook” and was nominated for “American Hustle”). “Accidental Love” has none of these things, and the whole film feels like a joke. You won’t be laughing, though.

The film focuses on small-town Indiana roller-skating waitress Alice (Jessica Biel, of “Hitchcock”), who while being proposed to by state trooper boyfriend Scott (James Marsden, of “The Best of Me”) is accidentally shot in the head with a nailgun. She can’t afford the $150,000 surgery to remove the 3-inch nail from her brain (“She has no insurance! Shut it down!” yells a hospital administrator, causing the surgeons operating on her to literally stop, peel off their medical gear, and start eating burgers over her body), and when Scott learns that side effects could include brain damage, slurred speech, heavy drooling, and loss of motor control, he calls off the engagement. (Not even the side effect of loss of sexual inhibitions can convince him to stick around.)

Fired from her job, dumped, and aimless, Alice wallows in self-misery for weeks until she sees a commercial for Indiana representative Howard Birdwell (Jake Gyllenhaal, of “Love & Other Drugs”), who promises that anyone from his state who comes to him with a problem can depend on his help. Convinced that Howard is the key to emergency health insurance for herself and similarly medically addled friends Norm (Kurt Fuller, of “Midnight in Paris”) and Keyshawn (Tracy Morgan, of “The Boxtrolls”)—both of whom have gross medical injuries involving their private parts—Alice travels to Washington, D.C., with them in tow to convince Howard to find a way to pay for their care.

What happens next is an improbable, illogical love story and romantic triangle; some pretty obvious complaints about how the federal government and self-serving politicians work; and a bizarre narrative that mocks the Girl Scouts, our national space program, lobbyists, and the legislative process. Theoretically, this is supposed to be a satire, but nothing here is pointed or insightful enough to really hit home. Alice is naïve, but her ignorance is inspiring to politicians because they can take advantage of her idealism. Howard is naïve, but his ignorance is useful for other politicians because they can take advantage of his idealism. Everyone is trying to control these two because politicians are single-minded, superficial, terrible people driven by ambition, the film argues, but it’s not like Alice and Howard are fleshed out in comparison; they’re just our default heroes because all the other characters are so awful. No matter that Howard is a racist womanizer or Alice a manipulative girlfriend; let’s root for these crazy kids to end up together!

It doesn’t help that the script is laughable for all the wrong reasons, including clearly outdated jokes about Wikipedia and Shakira that may have been relevant in 2008 but certainly aren’t now, or that certain subplots disappear with no explanation (like when Alice is called to meet with a vengeful politician, but we never see the meeting; instead, she’s next hanging out with the film’s version of Girl Scouts), or that Biel is an inflection-less marble-mouth and Gyllenhaal a goofy caricature. And, most problematically, the film is based on the inherent idea that a wide-spanning healthcare bill would never pass in the United States—but the Affordable Care Act exists now, so there’s an additional layer of disbelief here that is hard to accept. Of course, it’s been wrapped in controversy and remains a hot political topic, but when “Accidental Love” complains about healthcare as if it’s a political impossibility, you’ll just be reminded of how long this film has sat on the shelf.

If only Russell could have returned to this idea in the past year or so and beneficially revamped it: secured a new cast, written an actually satirical script, instilled tonal consistency, and addressed the healthcare and political issues going on now in our country after the legendary passing of the Affordable Care Act. But as it stands, it makes sense he wouldn’t want his name anywhere near “Accidental Love.” It’s a mess.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.

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