1 item from 2005
Screened at the Venice International Film Festival
VENICE, Italy -- There are a lot of fine literary quotes in "A Love Song for Bobby Long", from Dylan Thomas to George Sand to T.S. Eliot, but it's one from Robert Frost that best sums up the film's appeal: "Happiness makes up in height what it lacks in length." This may not be a big picture, but its pleasures will linger long.
The film will benefit from smart promotion and the loyalty of Travolta fans, and should gain support from audiences who wish to see the latest in a growing list of astonishing performances by the hot young actress Scarlett Johansson ("Lost in Translation", "Girl With a Pearl Earring").
First-time director Shainee Gabel, working from her own script inspired by the novel "Off East Magazine St". by R.E. Capps, has pulled off a remarkable feat in creating a community of characters reminiscent of an early Steinbeck novel. These are people who travel through life like bruised fruit but who always cling to the promise of a fresh harvest.
Travolta takes on a genuine character role in Bobby Long, a dissolute former professor of literature who shares a run-down New Orleans home with a clever but self-doubting young writer named Lawson, played with bright intelligence by Gabriel Macht. In their household, any liquid found in a jar that doesn't smell is a good enough mixer for vodka, while beer and tomato juice is the breakfast of champions.
The film opens following the death of a singer named Lorraine Will, who was adored by even those she abandoned, which was pretty much everybody including a daughter, Purslane (Johansson). When Pursy shows up two days late for her mother's funeral, she discovers that she owns one-third of the house Bobby and Lawson reside in, left to them by Lorraine. Perversely, she moves in.
It's obvious to Purslane, and the audience, that there is more to the story of Bobby and Lawson than meets the eye, but her interest is in finding out about a mother who abandoned her but whom everyone speaks of with affection. As she begins to have a cleansing effect on the misbehavior of the two men, a sense of family develops. While the plot doesn't hold too many surprises, it does play out satisfyingly as mysteries are revealed.
Travolta is gray-haired, unshaven and a bit stooped, but his grizzled and booze-soaked intellect can bring the poets readily to mind and he can still charm the local waitresses with a smiling "Cheese on our grits, darlin', please." Although Bobby has a damaged toe, Travolta even gets to dance a sedate Alabama shuffle.
Johansson is a study in naturalistic acting with her Florida panhandle accent pitch perfect and her ability to convey tough-mindedness and vulnerability, not to mention that the camera adores her.
The film benefits hugely from atmospheric production design by Sharon Lomofsky, which cinematographer Elliot Davis has shot beautifully. There is also a masterful soundtrack with an insightful score by Nathan Larson and a killer set of tracks from music supervisor Jim Black.
A LOVE SONG FOR BOBBY LONG
Presented by Columbia TriStar and El Camino Pictures
Director and screenwriter: Shainee Gabel
Producers: Paul Miller, David Lancaster, Bob Yari
Director of photography: Elliot Davis
Production supervisor: Sharon Lomofsky
Costume designer: Jill Ohanneson (cq)
Editors: Lee Percy, Lisa Fruchtman
Composer: Nathan Larson
Bobby Long: John Travolta
Purslane: Scarlett Johansson
Lawson: Gabriel Macht
Georgianna: Deborah Kara Unger
Cecil: Dane Rhodes
No MPAA rating
Running time -- 119 mins »
1 item from 2005
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