Prodding around with the idea of health care and a sly wink at political gain, this film does quite drastically fail at its satirical target. It’s in no way a slog, but the film’s stop start production certainly didn’t help things along and you can feel this shakiness in the jumbling construction of the entire feature.
Roller skating waitress Alice Eckle (Jessica Biel) seems to have it perfect and this is topped up when state trooper boyfriend Scott (James Marsden) proposes to her at a swanky gondola themed restaurant. That’s where it all turns though when a nail gun blasts a nail into her head and she can’t pay for the operation. Alice goes to Washington where she falls for and gains the wavering help of Howard Birdwell (Jake Gyllenhaal). Together they try and get a catastrophic health bill through attached to a moon base ideal.
Starting in 2008, this movie has faltered thanks to financial difficulties and meant established and award winning director David O. Russell left via the back door. It did however finally get stitched to together without his involvement though the script surely did still retain some of his work even if he made sure his name was erased from all credit. Producer Kia Jam picked up the pieces and with a Stephen Greene directorial pseudonym this movie feels like a botched job at getting it all together again.
The initial story based on Kristen Gore’s writing isn’t at all bad. If perhaps it hadn’t been an up and down time to get the film released and Russell had stayed on, the satirical punch about Congress, silly weapon based ideas and health care could have landed the way it intended. Instead the film is filled with uninteresting characters ambling through a wholly unbelievable plot that provides few thin laughs. That’s not to say there aren’t some screwier moments that scrape it from the gates of Hell.
The beginning doctor scene and their refusal to do anything is relatively funny, a nice set up of the system. The sofa surgery sequence that becomes a real life game of Operation descends into a frenetic farce of police containment, mad cow analogies and character trauma. The way the snappy first hook-up between Alice and Howard is done is good. Accidental Lust is seen as an explosive circling shot, with quivering limbs and groin tearing of presidential portraits. The sordid side of the nail blossoms and so does this relationship though after that point their togetherness is bland.
One huge moment of success, which doesn’t speak volumes considering how flat the rest of the film is, lies with the rise of the girl squad and their YouTube viral video which is even outdone by a fantastic spoof of a Government spot outing the young girl scouts and squaring in on the atrocities of being gay. The film had a chance to be a soaring satire if it hadn’t had all these road blocks but alas a few sparse moments of actual comedy don’t really save this picture from being predictable and just bad.
The whole idea of getting a health care bill passed is of course a necessary meaty serious running ident but it’s sloppily lost amongst the madness around it. It’s also done quite cheesily losing the acid crackle it could have against political agendas. The panto villain of Pam doesn’t help either, the whole moon base plan and her attempt to quash Alice’s dream are flaky. It honestly feels like a jigsaw of a film, certain parts feel different and you can tell something happened because it’s so disjointed in tone.
Jessica Biel opens well, with her flawless skating routine showcasing the wonderful life she starts out with. She’s neither kooky nor powerful enough to take the leading lady role though, yet to be fair her two big speeches are delivered well, her latter one is silly yet impassioned and Biel gives it oomph. Jake Gyllenhaal must hope ‘Nightcrawler’ and ‘Southpaw’ shadow this because his role is highly dopey. He breaks down on purposely over the top in a scene where he reveals his past, his wide eyed crying is on point but he can do much better. James Marsden is the typical douche boyfriend but his constant percentages is amusing. Tracy Morgan is like his ’30 Rock’ persona, the delivery of his lines like Tracy Jordan was in Tina Fey’s comedy show.
This film might be more of an accident than it ever desired, aside from a pitiful smattering of humour this release should have been locked away. As Howard Birdwell states with the notion of political karate, this film is the same, ending up floored on the mat with its audience begging for a time out.