After a six-year delay David O. Russell‘s…sorry, Stephen Greene‘s Accidental Love has begun streaming, and has been panned by a small handful. I saw it last night, expecting the expected. But I found it spirited, often amusing and even delightful in short spurts. I’m telling you at the very least that Rodrigo Perez‘s Indiewire pan is way too harsh. Accidental Love is far from a knockout but it’s no disaster either. It’s a minor Russell detour and obviously years out of date (it’s basically a “we all need decent health care!” piece) but portions of this incomplete governmental farce, previously known as Nailed, are far better than indicated by the subdued buzz, particularly in view of Russell having washed his hands of it years ago.
Now and then Accidental Love reminded me of the tone and attitude of Russell’s much-praised American Hustle. While Hustle is probably a better, more fully developed piece, certainly by the standards of most critics, I enjoyed the occasionally inspired Love a bit more. It doesn’t work all that well but it’s insane fun at times. Certainly if you watch it as a flawed thing that will kick into gear every so often and that’s all. I don’t need films to work all around the track if they’re got a few special fragments, and that’s more or less the case here.
You can definitely sense that goofy Russell bounce, that pumped-up “yeahhh!” in several sections of Love, particularly when the action shifts to Washington, D.C., and Jake Gyllenhaal‘s wishy-washy Congressman enters the fray. Jessica Biel, who plays the lead character, a small-town waitress who gets accidentally zapped with a nailgun, perform in such a winning, wide-open fashion. And Gyllenhaal has a nutso time as an opportunistic, morally indecisive servant of his district. And Paul Reubens delivers two or three highly amusing “go, Pee Wee!” moments as a Congressional assistant. There’s a great 360-degree camera-pan sex scene between Biel and Gyllenhaal in a Congressional office, and also an inspired falling-in-love dialogue scene between them in a motel room. How can anyone dismiss a love story in which the guy tells the girl “you’re a great liar” and she says “no, you’re a much better liar!” Or a climactic moment in which Biel’s former boyfriend (a highway patrolman played by James Marsden) makes a big play for her and she tells him she prefers Gyllenhaal because “he gave me my first orgasm!”
I’ll take an inconsistent, hit-and-miss thing like Accidental Love with hilarious wild-ass bits that sail out of the park any day over something edgy and grounded but at the same time gloomy, downish and finally unsatisfying like American Hustle. I never really embraced Hustle and I never will. I could never quite make myself watch the DVD screener. But I could watch Love again for the cool, crazy parts.