David O Russell's half-finished 'lost' comedy - completed without the director's blessing - would be near-unwatchable without the endearingly daffy Jessica Biel

Here’s some food for thought. Accidental Love is the new name for Nailed: an abandoned, unfinished comedy shot in 2008 by a well-known director who now won’t put his name on the finished product. During filming, the cast and crew downed tools four times over unpaid wages, and what footage was captured before the production company finally went bankrupt has spent the last seven years in legal limbo, for various murky reasons.

Recently, these offcuts were stitched together by a producer in an attempt to claw something back from this smoking crater of a film, and the end result has vital scenes missing, no ending, and performances that often don’t make sense. Yet somehow, it’s still objectively better than the Entourage movie.

There’s no question that Accidental Love – directed by the multiple Oscar nominee David O Russell, of Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle renown, but credited to the shadowy ‘Stephen Greene’ – is a broken film. Had things gone precisely as Russell intended, though, it’s not immediately clear that the finished creation would have ever been crack-free.

That’s largely down to the premise, which was loosely adapted from a novel by Kristin Gore, daughter of Al, and has Alice Eckle, a roller-skating waitress played by a terrific Jessica Biel, turn into a healthcare campaigner after a freak accident leaves a two-inch nail embedded in her skull.

Russell reportedly never shot the crucial injury scene as an ultimate bargaining chip in the ongoing battle with the film’s financiers. The version of it we see here is a deliberate blur, shot with a Biel body double on a lookalike set at a later date. It looks dreadful, but you have to admire the chutzpah.

The side effects of Alice’s injury include an increased sex drive and a tendency to lapse without warning into Portuguese at random intervals. Allies she picks up on her way to the U.S. Capitol, meanwhile, include a priapic priest (Kurt Fuller), a former bodybuilder with a prolapsed anus (Tracy Morgan), a gaggle of militant girl guides, and a fastidiously groomed young Congressman with plans to build a military base on the moon (Jake Gyllenhaal, playing it wild-eyed and likeably broad).

As the above may indicate, some of the problems here must have taken root long before the film fell into serious trouble. Individual scenes don’t feel planned so much as free-associated, as if the scriptwriters had come up with the dialogue in the minute or two before they fell asleep, while the camera’s groggily canted angles drain every scene of the frantic energy the cast try so desperately hard to whip up.

The salvage operation, though, has made things drastically worse: imagine someone tried to save a picnic from being rained off by suddenly setting the blanket on fire. The strenuously kooky background music, clumpy editing and cartoonish sound effects – including, unforgivably, a record scratch when a conversation suddenly veers off-piste – grate miserably against the helter-skelter swirl of the performances. It’s a screwball comedy told with the grammar of a rom-com.

Whoever wrangled this stuff in the editing suite clearly did everything they could to reassure viewers that what they were watching was definitely supposed to be funny. Given the film was never going to make sense, though, letting its flailing oddness flap free would have surely been the shrewder strategy.

Treat Accidental Love as a curio, though, and there’s still some fun to be had with it. Unsurprisingly, the scenes most immune to tinkering are the best: a YouTube video with the girl guides is a scream, while a sequence in which Biel and Gyllenhaal’s characters make love on the floor of his office is a minor triumph of the madcap Russell style. The camera pans slowly around the room while limbs pop fleetingly in and out of shot, and lustful hands reach up to grab whatever’s within range: in this case, portraits of Clinton and Kennedy, which tear at groin-height.

Russell completists, meanwhile, can parse it as the missing link between the director’s early and current periods. The director made this in his wilderness years between I Heart Huckabees (2004) and The Fighter (2010), but it prefigures his more recent work: in many ways, not least in its deliberately brisk treatment of mental illness, it feels like a dry run for Silver Linings Playbook.

Most of all, though, you just want to cheer on Biel, who slides with daffy elegance through Russell’s screwball world. It’s rough that what might have otherwise been this actress’s best performance of the last 10 years is now effectively a lost one – so perhaps for that reason alone, the film’s belated arrival still counts for something. You’re left feeling that the story of its production would make for a great David O Russell film.