Did Obama Just Save Another Movie?

If you saw the trailer for the ‘new’ film Accidental Love, you may have noticed that Jake Gyllenhaal looks a little younger. We know he’s excellent at changing his appearance for different roles, from a waif in Nightcrawler to a beefcake in Southpaw to Jesus in Everest, but no amount of shaving can remove 7 years from a face. Accidental Love was filmed in 2008, and despite what the credits of the film may say, it was directed by David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle). Traditionally when directors wanted to disassociate themselves from projects, they would replace their name with the fictional Alan Smithee’s. By 2015, most people know to avoid Smithee’s movies, so the studio opted for “Stephen Greene” in this case. 

According the Russell’s wikipedia page, the film was shut down several times during production until the film labor union  (IATSE) eventually shut it down for good because crew wasn’t getting paid. James Caan had begun work on the film but walked off the set due to creative differences with Russell. Despite millions of dollars invested, it looked like everyone had decided to cut their losses and walk away from the mess. The film must have been very close to wrapping, as Millennium Entertainment now has a releasable version in the can.

But why now, after all these years? Often a film must contain something prescient for this to happen. Usually it’s when one of the stars takes off in a big way, like when Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation was released after Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger became A-listers. While Gyllenhaal’s career has continued an upward trajectory, it would seem the film’s newfound relevance comes from its healthcare-related subject matter. Co-written by Kristin Gore, there’s a clear political undercurrent to this comedy, as the main character seeks to make healthcare available to everyone after doctors won’t remove a nail from her head because she’s not covered (the original title was Nailed… get it?).

So in a sense, though it was not consciously as it was with The Interview, Obama has helped another comedy get released. In 2008 Obama had only just been elected for his first term and “Obamacare” was still a couple years away. And while it’s been almost five years now since the statute was enacted, it’s as hot a topic as ever. Despite 20 million Americans now covered who previously weren’t, much of the country is still opposed to this system. Now we’ll get to see Jessica Biel act silly while trying to change their minds. So… thanks Obama?

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It’s worth noting that the film features Tracy Morgan in a supporting role. Sadly it seems unlikely that we will be getting any new performances from him after last year’s car accident. This was likely also a factor in the studio’s decision to finally release the film.

On paper, it’s a miracle that Russell rebounded from this cluster cuss so successfully. He was already getting a bad reputation for being difficult to work with, which wasn’t helped by the infamous video of his fight with Lily Tomlin getting leaked on YouTube in 2007. At the time, he’d only really had one box office hit, Three Kings in 1999. In 2005 he released I Heart Huckabees which was not meant for mainstream consumption, and with this project being all but abandoned, he wouldn’t have another film released until 2010’s The Fighter. Were it not for the success of that film, we probably would have never heard from him again. 

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