Big, broad political satire is hard to pull off in the best of cases. Ambitious filmmakers convinced they’ve found their Dr. Strangelove can, after a few wrong turns, easily find themselves having made Southland Tales or American Dreamz. But David O. Russell‘s Nailed, about a waitress who becomes a health care reform champion after getting a nail lodged in her skull, was made under nothing like the best of circumstances. The director left the project mid-shoot after financing problems caused multiple production shutdowns in 2008. Somewhere in the seven years since, someone was recruited to finish the job (directing credit goes to the fictional “Stephen Greene”), and the unpromisingly renamed Accidental Love was whisked quietly onto VOD. It is meant to open in theaters a month from now, but marquee names notwithstanding, its time there will be very short.
Jessica Biel plays the waitress, Alice, who is about to get engaged to a hunka-hunka policeman (James Marsden) when a construction worker accidentally shoots her with a nail gun. She’s rushed to the hospital, and surgeons are about to extract the offending spike when a paper pusher rushes in to announce that Alice has no insurance. Relieved they didn’t start a job they weren’t going to get paid for, the doctors drop their scalpels, pick up cheeseburgers and start a lunch break right there in the OR. Alice will need to find some way of paying for the surgery before the nail shifts and makes her a drooling invalid.
Russell pulled off some outrageous moments in I Heart Huckabees, the feature he made before this film, but the evidence here suggests Nailed had issues even before the money ran out — assuming Russell shot some of the high-pitched domestic conflagrations that soon send our heroine from her little Indiana town to Washington, DC. While Marsden is well cast for some aspects of his role, he’s not the kind of foil-slash-instigator of living-room ridiculousness that Mark Wahlberg was in Huckabees and Bradley Cooper was in Silver Linings Playbook. The script (co-written by Kristin Gore, daughter of Al) defines key supporting characters (out-of-place Kurt Fuller and Tracy Morgan) by their medical ailments, one-joke afflictions that are meant to fuel laughs throughout. And big chunks of the action (a veterinarian’s attempt to get the nail out; a politician’s convenient death) are so dumb it’s hard to imagine them playing well.
Things get more generically unenjoyable once Alice goes to Washington, trying to get help from an inexperienced Congressman (Jake Gyllenhaal) whose political existence depends on pleasing his party’s whip (Catherine Keener). A flimsy score by John Swihart contributes to the movie’s cheapo vibe, which would be rather deadly even if the plot hadn’t aged terribly in the years since Obamacare entered the picture.
Production companies: Kia Jam, Persistent Entertainment
Cast: Jessica Biel, Jake Gyllenhaal, Catherine Keener, James Marsden, Kurt Fuller, Tracy Morgan
Director: Stephen Greene
Screenwriters: Kristin Gore, Matt Silverstein, Dave Jeser
Producers: David Bergstein, Frederick R. Ulrich, Matthew Rhodes, Judd Payne, Kia Jam
Executive producers: Sam Solakyan, Eugene Scher, Julius R. Nasso, James W. Skotchdopole
Director of photography: Max Malkin
Production designer: Judy Becker
Costume designer: Marie Sylvie Deveau
Editors: Robert K. Lambert, Mark Bourgeois
Music: John Swihart
Casting director: Tracy Kilpatrick
Rated PG-13, 100 minutes