A Love Song for Bobby Long (2004)
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I have never seen Scarlett Johanssen in anything before. I have to say she impressed me here with her performance as Pursalane Hominy Will (ain't that a mouthful of a name!). Travolta does a nice turn as the titular Bobby Long, a former English professor who has fallen into the depths of an alcohol induced fantasy life. Gabriel Macht also does a good job as Lawson Pines, Bobby Long's former teaching assistant who has accompanied Long into his descent out of a sense of loyalty and guilt.
Perhaps the most interesting character, to me, is the one you never see, Lorraine Will; a New Orleans diva and the mother of young Pursey. Lorraine's death from alcoholism is what brings our characters together, and much like Alex in The Big Chill, we never once see or hear from Lorraine (not even in voice-over when Pursey reads a letter never sent to her by Lorraine), but we experience her through the people in this movie. It is a brave choice for the director to make, as I believe others would opt for more direct exposition via flashback, voice-overs, etc.
In the end, while there is a certain formulaic approach to the story, the characters are done well enough that you enjoy the story anyway.
Purslane Hominy Will (Scarlett Johansson) is a young high school dropout living in trailer park trash in Florida with a low class boyfriend Lee (Clayne Crawford) when she learns of her mother Lorraine's death in New Orleans. Though she hasn't seen or heard from her obese, druggie, songwriter mother in years, she wants to attend her funeral and strikes out for New Orleans.
Arriving on the doorstep of her mother's rundown, rotting house, she discovers Bobby Long (John Travolta), an unkempt drunk who once was an English professor in a college in Alabama but fell into oblivion and alcohol when he lost his wife and family. He is living in filth with Lawson Pines (Gabriel Macht) who, as Bobby's teaching assistant whom Bobby has deemed gifted, has followed Bobby to write Bobby's biography - a work in progress that has stalemated in favor of alcoholism and disillusionment. Pursey hears that Booby and Lawson were Lorraine's closest friends (she had invited them to flop in her shabby house, entertained by their low key scholasticism and literature quoting), and that Lorraine had willed her home to the three of them.
Pursey moves in reluctantly - she has nowhere else to go - and immediately is at odds with her 'roommates'. Likewise Bobby and Lawson resist Pursey's presence and insist she 'get a life' by returning to high school, making use of her obvious intellect. The verbal sparing that eventually leads the three to find a sense of family lays the foundation for the predictable conclusion.
That is the simplicity of the tale - if it is storyline that is important to you. Gabel's distillation of Capps' novel is in the atmosphere she creates with these gifted actors. Bobby may be a drunk but he is the spokesman for a neighborhood of sad broken lives. The world is confined to the street that contains the local bar, churches, and graveyards - each of varying importance but all drenched in humidity and frequent rains and alcohol and aimless living. The local bar is tended by Georgiana (Deborah Kara Unger) with whom Lawson is having a strained affair. The folk who gather at Bobby's literature-spouting soirees include gardener Cecil (Dane Rhodes), Junior (David Jensen), to mention only a few well-defined characters. That anyone could alter the ennui in the way Pursey changes things is a minor miracle.
The minimal music score by Grayson Capps is atmospheric as are the off-screen comments and quotations of great literature of TS Eliot, Robert Frost, WH Auden et al. The cinematography by Eliot Davis is properly claustrophobic and decadent in atmosphere. And while some feel the movie is too long for the minimal story, the length and pacing are in keeping with the traditions and the literature of the South and for this viewer it works exceedingly well.
Travolta, Johansson, Macht, and Unger give multifaceted, highly sensitive performances. As for Shainee Gabel (whose only other film was the controversial 'Anthem') here is a writer and director to watch. The DVD contains some excellent deleted scenes and one of the more informative 'making of' segments with Gabel, Travolta, Johansson, Macht, and Rhodes speaking with quiet eloquence. Highly recommended.
"A Love Song for Bobby Long" is a bitter tale of love, friendship and synergy of invisible people. With many citations of important writers, the dramatic story has excellent lines and is very positive, with good messages and a well resolved conclusion. The irregular John Travolta and always perfect Scarlett Johansson are splendid in the role of broken, suffered and hopeless characters, and the story is never corny. The music score with typical blues, songs and bands from New Orleans completes this surprisingly good movie. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): "Uma Canção de Amor Para Bobby Long" ("A Love Song for Bobby Long")
Than the young girl arrives and shakes their world. You've seen that theme many times in movie history, but this is for once done in a very intelligent way. Gabriel Macht is very good and Scarlett Johansson, the greatest talent of her young generation, too. But Travolta is probably doing the part of his life so far. Travolta is now a character actor, if anyone is.
American movies don't always tell about these kind of losers in such a sympathetic way. But this one does. The end is sentimental, but never mind. The ride towards that is really worth seeing.
As soon as i started watching it i could not take my eyes of the TV... I have to say this movies is one of 2005 best movies by far. This is NOT a bad copy of (LIT) this is if not better at least as good as it! The script is awesome and the acting MINDBLOWING!
If you still haven't watch it get of your ass and GET IT! This movie will take your mind peace for 1h and 59m!
The soundtrack adds so much texture and feeling to the picture. And it is a surprise to see a pre-Katrina New Orleans.
The atmosphere in this movie reminded me of Midnight in the Garden of Evil. In both cases they captured the special uniqueness and character of the cities.
The pace is slower and more relaxed, which goes a long way in capturing the atmosphere of New Orleans.
I highly recommend this movie.
I also liked the locale and the music. It is funny because when this movie was out, I had never heard of it. I don't think it got the publicity that normal John travolta movies get. I also thought it was sad and eerie seeing New Orleans locales before Hurricane Katrina. Anyway, good movie.
But ... it is a good story. A story about three misfits thrown together as a result of someone else's misfortune. And the story is about how they each discover something about themselves, and grow as a result. A growth each would not experienced, had they not been in the situation. John Travolta is always good, and here he is Bobby Long, former Literature Professor who has dropped out of the mainstream. Scarlett Johansson is perfect as Pursy Will, a high school dropout who looks at waiting tables as an acceptable career. Gabriel Macht is Lawson Pines, a genuine follower, a former protégé of Bobby Long's and erstwhile "author" who can't seem to write anything good. The movie develops deliberately, somewhat like reading a book, and always interesting.
SPOILERS. Pursy is living with her boyfriend in Panama City, Florida, and one day he incidentally tells her Bobby Long called to say her mother had died. She is too late for the funeral, but the gravestone tells us she was 40. She goes to check out the house in Gretna, near the levee, but finds Bobby and Lawson living there in squalor, two apparent drunkards who have no obvious income. They tell her that the will left the house to each of them, one-third owners. What they didn't tell her was they could stay there up to one year, then it belonged to Pursy alone. In a rather long process Pursy gets her GED, looking through her mom's things finds letters to Pursy that she never had the courage to mail, and also finds out Bobby Long is her father. There are many other complications, but Bobby doesn't take care of an infected foot and dies a year later. Lawson writes the book, "Love Song For Bobby Long". Pursy gains confidence and looks towards a career.
As the three live in peace and harmony (yeah right!), more secrets are discovered in Pursy's late mother's will that only Bobby and Lawson know of and another secret that all three don't know about.
It was an all-around emotional roller-coaster ride. It contains humor, intelligent dialogue, sentimental moments and scenes that will lift up your hearts if only a tad bit obscene in some areas. Sure it was a frugal budget, but I've seen high budget movies turn into god-awful clunkers before. I admired the transformation of the house going from a condemned house whose makeover could've been solved by a wrecking ball to an artistically crafted piece of architecture. Where they got the dough is a mystery since the triad are jobless. The bayou setting in New Orleans never looked so sophisticating and the neighborhood they lived in was a landscape's paradise.
John Travolta was terrific from the the likable tough guys he's played like Tony Moreno and Vincent Vega to a more subtle Southerner like Bobby Long, though he was still a bit tense at times. The other leading characters were amazing here too. Scarlett Johansson was really into the character she played and it was hard not to sympathize with her and still looked good, even in shabby apparel. Gabriel Macht shows what he can do with a clever script and at times can out-perform the other two leading performers. And the chemistry between Macht and Johansson didn't feel forced or scripted, but real and natural. This is a movie for the intellects and one to watch if you are a true movie fan.
All in all, this is a literate person's film. A reader's film. A gross portion of the American viewing public would love to actually be as smart as this movie needs them to be, and that's just the sad state of education in the United States. My advice to all of you is simply this: watch it anyway. If you hear something referred to in the film then look up the author on the internet and read the books mentioned in the film. You will be enriched from within, and then will be able to revisit this film with the smarts it requires of a viewer. Rise to the challenge. You will end up a better person from the experience, and there just are not many movies these days that can lay claim to that brand of impact.
Going to her mother's house she meets two strangers, Bobby Long, and Lawson Pines. Bobby had been a college professor, and Lawson his assistant. Since they lost their jobs, they relocated to New Orleans, where they lead lives wasted by the amounts of liquor both drink. Pursy comes into this household without a clue as to why these two are living in Lorraine's house. Both men are supposedly the inheritors of the property, but the young woman's arrival changes their position considerably.
Pursy, who has dropped out of school, is coaxed by Bobby and Lawson into getting her GED and to pursue a college education, something she is reluctant to undertake, at first. The fact that the house is in her name and both men had lied about it, comes as a shock to Pursy, who feels betrayed and decides to put it for sale, but it seems she is too deeply involved with these two men. Bobby, it turns out, is closer to her than she ever thought, and she has feelings for Lawson, in spite of the age difference.
Shainee Gabel, who adapted Ronale Everett Capps' novel "Off Magazine Street" into this film, captures the essence of the relationship among these three lost souls living in New Orleans. The film starts slowly but keeps getting better half way into the film. It pays for the viewers to stay with it because of the nuanced character study Ms. Gabel achieves in the film.
John Travolta would have been not our first choice to play Bobby Long, but for better, or worse, he is the man that was tapped to portray this lost soul. At times, he succeeds brilliantly, and at other times, we just don't believe he is that alcoholic man whose talent has gone to waste. Scarlett Johansson gives a good performance as Pursy, the confused young woman who must face reality and deal with it. Gabriel Macht is also effective as Lawson. The best thing though, is the understated reading Deborah Dara Unger gives to Georgianna, the bar maid with a heart of gold who loves Lawson silently.
Watching the film, post-Katrina, we could only wonder what state the neighborhood where the film was shot, a couple of years earlier, would be like right now. One could only hope everything had managed to survive the furor of the storm, although who knows?
The cast of characters - aside from Johannsen, Macht and Travolta - were ghostly and indistinct, while still being integral to the plot...but you don't find out why (and how it all comes together) until the end. It was interesting how they pulled that off. The movie starts out like (pardon the expression) a trailer trash documentary, and I must admit that I only started watching it when I was bored. However, when they started in on the literary quotations, I was reaching for my pen and a piece of paper to make a note of the quote, the book title and author for later digestion. I was hooked.
The dynamic between Travolta and Johannsen was electric, and even that guy Macht that I'd never heard of before (but found to be delicious) was really alive. He's a good actor...I shall watch out for more of his stuff.
Travolta was brilliant. He was so dead set against Johannsen being in his life initially, and he was such a BLEEPITY BLEEP BLEEPING BLEEP, it was really difficult to feel anything for his character in the beginning. Travolta definitely does NOT get the recognition for his skill that he richly deserves.
It was heart-wrenching to watch Johannsen fall for one character for so many wrong reasons (and a few right ones: he was on her side, he gave her all the support and encouragement that she had so desperately needed, and - more importantly - his support and encouragement were genuine and warm, ultimately with no ulterior motives..for perhaps the first time in her life.). But her growing affection for someone she didn't want to care for was really beautiful. It was the end that had me bawling my eyes out. It was perfect. It was sublime.
Watch this movie. Yes, there are some slow parts, but if you want to get as much as you can from this flick, pay attention to all of it. I think you'll be glad you did.
Enjoy, and thanks for stopping by.
This description said that New Orleans is a place of "genteel ruin," and I think that phrase beautifully describes the entire feel of this movie. The movie is a simple story of family, but it revolves around people who had dreams and successes once, and whose lives are going to seed. It's sad, but tragically lovely to watch, and it's genuinely great when they redeem themselves in the end.
Scarlett Johansson is her usual luminescent self as a young girl trying to deal with her mother's legacy and find her own way, but the true joy of the film is the relationship between John Travolta and the other main actor (I apologize for forgetting his name). They speak to each other in quotes, and challenge each other's knowledge of literature, which is brave to do in a film. And although we don't like to watch our sex symbols get old, Travolta does a great job as a man whose best years are waaayyyy behind him, but he still manages a sort of seedy grace.
Rounded out with a charming supporting cast and a beautiful sense of New Orleans (and the heat) almost as a character itself, A Love Song For Bobby Long is about as close to perfect as movies can be.
This story is a study in character and Travolta takes it to the limit. This is a man that is hurting both mentally and physically. He is lost but he is soon found. And a whole new reason for living is offered to him. He believes in God - now how can a character go wrong if he believes in God.
This is a movie that you want to sit back and relax and just go with it. It is not an action film and so it moves slow. But it has to in order for you to feel the emotions of the characters. They all have their own little demons and yet they try to support each other without really realizing it. In the end they are brought together by pure love.
Watch it and enjoy. If you can't pause it then get your drink and food before watching it. You do not want to miss even one word. All dialog is too important. Miss any and you miss the message.
Great movie done by even greater actors. Leave it up to JT to come up with another gem - he has the knack for it.