The Accidental Husband

The Accidental Husband


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Emma Lloyd knows a lot about love. In fact, she's some kind of doctor of love, giving out advice over the radio to people who are unhappy or uncertain about their relationships. Unfortunately, her cynical, practical, stubbornly unromantic prescriptions aren't always welcome. When she advises his fiancee to abandon their relationship, firefighter Patrick is seriously pissed off. Then he hears that she has wedding plans of her own. Determined to get revenge, he and his young friend Ajay hack into government records and create a document which will give her a taste of her own medicine, spoiling her plans by making her officially already married to Patrick. It's a fine plan and everything works smoothly - until, that is, Emma comes to find Patrick with the annulment papers and the two accidentally start falling in love.

This is what's known as a Concept Movie - the central idea is a strong one, with enormous potential, and in this case it's handled pretty well. The trouble is that The Accidental Husband doesn't really have anything else. Subplots involving the Indian family whose restaurant Patrick lives above are interesting but quickly fade away. Likewise the subplot about Emma's fiance's publishing business, perhaps because Isabella Rossellini, though aged and dowdified, is still far too classy for the rest of the film. There's some exploration of Emma's relationship with her father but it's insubstantial, suggesting that a lot of material was edited out. What's left is Emma, Patrick, and the unfortunate fiance, Richard.

Copy picture

The problem with stories like this is that they're arranged entirely around the concept of a happy ending, whilst tradition dictates that there can't be one for everyone. Poor Richard (Colin Firth) has committed no crime except for being boring, and it's uncomfortable watching what he goes through as Emma gradually realises this in what is essentially a celebration of glorious selfishness.

Perhaps the casting of Uma Thurman in the lead role is unfortunate, because I couldn't help but think how neat a prequel this might have made to the famous wedding scene in Kill Bill. The other problem with her is that she just doesn't know how to handle this kind of role. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who recently thrilled romance fans in P.S. I Love You, is solid as Patrick, relaxed and utterly naturalistic; opposite this, Thurman's frenetically mannered performance is just irritating. What might have been an intriguing contrast of personalities just comes down to him being believable and her seeming contrived, with next to no chemistry between them. She's a good enough actress to provide lingering looks and sorrowful eyes we can believe in, but her comic scenes are a joke of a different order. It's a real shame to see somebody of her ability reduced to this.

The Accidental Husband is certainly more watchable than a lot of its ilk, saved by the male leads, generally high production values and a script which avoids the worst cliches of its formulaic narrative. The ending is really badly handled, losing all grip on realism just as it decides to make speeches about that, but overall it's a passably enjoyable evening's entertainment.

Reviewed on: 25 Feb 2008
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An angry firefighter decides to get revenge on the radio agony aunt who ruined his relationship, spoiling her wedding plans by faking a document which says she's already married to him.
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Director: Griffin Dunne

Writer: Mimi Hare, Clare Naylor

Starring: Uma Thurman, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Colin Firth, Sam Shepard, Isabella Rossellini

Year: 2008

Runtime: 91 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: UK


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