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Accidental Love review by Matthew Simmonds
The anonymity of the pseudonym director has been a topic worthy of discussion for decades now. What makes this of interest to most film folk is the natural assumption that the pseudonym director represents failure, defeat and more importantly the prospect from the audience’s point of view of seeing a film so bad that it’s good.
This pseudonym director thrives on our seemingly natural, almost instinctive desire to experience failure on a level that is entertaining.
Alan Smithee is one of the most consistent directors of our time; consistent that is for making truly awful films. But as most of us are aware, Alan Smithee does not exist. He’s a creation and work of fiction dreamt up by film directors for the purpose of there being an official pseudonym available for any filmmaker who finds himself in the undesirable position of wishing to disown a project. So take a stroll over to his IMDB page, courtesy of the Internet expressway and you’ll find he’s the oh not so proud owner of over 70 directorial credits which include: The O.J. Simpson Story (1995), The Birds 2: Lands End (1994) and the Dennis Hopper led Catchfire (1990). You are probably asking the same question I am – how could The Birds 2 have ended badly… A sure fire success right? Okay, all joking aside, this year sees a new addition to the pseudonym director’s not so proud list of credits and if you will allow me, ladies and gentlemen to introduce Mr Stephen Greene, the director of Accidental Love.
Accidental Love tells the story of small time waitress, Alice (Biel) who gets a nail accidentally lodged in her head (yup) that consequentially causes her behavior to become volatile and unpredictable. When doctors refuse to operate on her due to lack of health insurance, Alice and a small group of friends head to Washington D.C. to create change, and in the process she meets the young, naive congressman Howard Birdwell (Gyllenhaal).
The story of the making of Accidental Love is one of lost finance, actors walking off set and a politician’s daughter, all the ingredients for a filmic disaster. Unfortunately for Accidental Love, the trials and tribulations encountered mean that a better film than the one receiving a limited UK theatrical release has been claimed by the spectre of unfulfilled potential; a better version of Accidental Love is out there in some alternative parallel dimension in which the production was a dream and O’Russell directed a modern satirical classic that added fuel to President Obama’s idealistic political quest.
Originally titled Nailed and written by Kristin Gore (Al Gore’s daughter) this was all set to be a star studded screwball comedy/satire that would tackle politics and the access to national healthcare. With the in-demand David O’Russell attached as director, Jake Gyllenhaal and Jessica Biel in the lead roles, Nailed had all the ingredients for a multiplex attention magnet. However, with dodgy finances and a shoot that was brought to a halt, the film quickly disintegrated and O’Russell officially called it a day and walked away from the film. In all the production would find itself shut down 14 times before the saga started to find its legs again, and enter Stephen Greene who is credited for the completed film.
With a parallel between the world of entertainment and politics, one could say that while Kristin Gore’s distasteful encounter with the film business mirrors her father’s misfortune when he was screwed by another, more nefarious force: George W. Bush that left a bitter political taste in his mouth.
Accidental Love feels like a wound that’s been stitched up and if you look closely you may find some potential underneath the mound of conflict and regret. While its script offers moments of black comedy, satire and witty dialogue it is unfortunately a film that still winds up ultimately feeling lost. One of the main problems is how obvious it becomes that there’s no one directing or rather captaining the ship, and despite a wide and varied cast: Beverly D’Angelo, Catherine Keener, James Marsden and Kirstie Alley, there’s a distinct lack of purpose, which leaves the cast seemingly unmotivated. Credit where credit is due, Jessica Biel is likable in the lead role, although the script that seems to have no idea of which way it wants to go offers her no real support. Quite simply put, there are far too many ideas for a film without a director: the political satire, the Farrelly brother style comedy, and finally there’s the attempt at screwball comedy with the relationship between Alice and Senator Birdwell.
The final nail in the coffin is the last ditch and cynical attempt at making something of the material that had been patched together, done through the use of music and what are best referred to as odd sound effects. The approach inherently feels desperate and again reinforces the disconnect that exists between the script and the final version of the film that we see onscreen. There are scenes that feel unfinished and underdeveloped, including the key scene where Alice gets shot with a nail gun, while some of the editing also seems to be covering up rather than adding anything to help benefit the story.
It’s cruel to criticize Accidental Love too heavily, as to do so would be a clear example of knocking someone when they’re down. So it’s not the cast or crew I’d criticize, rather the money and cynical completion. Truth is, there are some films released in the multiplex today that do a far worse job than this and pass without criticism, and while it is hard to compliment a pseudonym, I’ll say Stephen Greene didn’t do as bad a job as some other filmmakers currently earning their keep.
Accidental Love is released through Arrow Films in cinemas Friday June 19th