Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Love Song for Bobby Long

A Love Song for Bobby LongFor those who have read Ronald Everett Capps' novel 'Off Magazine Street' and savor the slow, lugubrious, decadent pattern of life in the poor section of New Orleans, then Screenwriter/Director Shainee Gabel's transformation of those ideas into A LOVE SONG FOR BOBBY LONG will certainly satisfy. Though Gabel has manipulated characters names and identification to fit her sensitive interpretation of Capps' story into a visual manifestation, the changes are sound and serve to make this remarkably fine low budget film a humid, alcoholically lethargic slice of New Orleans as viable as, say, Tennessee Williams. There is a captured ambience of the South complete with decay, shanties, intermittent rain, and aimless broken lives that sets a fine stage for a rather minimal story.

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 Bobby 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 highschool, 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 is 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. Grady Harp, April 05

Weeds and undesirable elements seem to be extremely resilient to whatever tries to remove them. These undesirables might even try to get rid of themselves in the process, but only grow stronger as time passes. In a remote and undisturbed place these undesirables can find a spot where they can find support, like-mindedness, or respectful privacy. Some undesirables have a stunning appearance, but nonetheless they are rejects. A Love Song for Bobby Long is a story about a small group of undesirable's in the outskirts of New Orleans where the magic of the city still can touch them.

The camera opens shooting a man who the audience later discovers as Bobby Long (John Travolta) who lights a cigarette amidst the haze of alcohol while stumbling towards the door with a paper bag covering a bottle of booze. When Bobby opens the door blinding light enter the room, as if the daylight would be something foreign and new to him. Stumbling Bobby moves in an intended direction, as if he has a purpose. He limps due to a discolored toe that probably gives him difficulty in wearing proper shoes, as he wears a slipper on the aching foot. Limping and stumbling Bobby arrives to a graveyard to pay his respects to Lorraine, someone near and dear who recently has passed away.

Some distance away from New Orleans in Florida lives Pursy Will (Scarlett Johansson) Lorraine's only daughter who finds out from her deadbeat boyfriend that her mother has died. Angry Pursy packs her belonging and leaves for New Orleans to attend the funeral, as she discovers that she has arrived too late and two men live in her mother's decaying house, Bobby and Lawson Pines (Gabriel Macht). Quickly, Pursy learns that these men are not leaving, and these two alcoholic losers, especially Bobby, do not desire her presence. Nonetheless, she stays, as she has nowhere else to go.

A Love Song for Bobby Long brings the audience on a venture into the part of human society where most do not want to go, as people link it with losers, deadbeats, and misfits the undesirables. Despite the bleakness of the situation there are also moments of sunshine and pleasantness, which brighten the existence for all of those who try to forget and avoid society. The moment of brightness begins to intensify as Pursy arrived, as her name also refers to a yellow flowering weed, yet she keeps on verbally beating down herself and alike. Something is missing in Pursy's dropout existence, something that Bobby and Lawson recognize, as Bobby used to be an English professor and Lawson his teaching assistant.

Eventually, Pursy pursues her General Educational Development (GED) test with a possibility to reach college. However, Pursy struggles with her societal existence, as she perceives herself as a misfit, an undesirable. Her negative self-perspective makes it hard for her to academically bloom, which both Lawson and Bobby recognize as they keep on encouraging her to study. This leaves the audience with the notion of human dualism, as she does not want to be where she is; yet she does not want to leave.

Director Shainee Gabel provides an interesting and thoughtful cinematic experience, which the audience can experience through lucid and cryptic reasoning concealed in literature, existential philosophy and psychology. The mise-en-scene and the framing of scenes enhance the situational atmosphere, which seems to grasp one part of New Orleans with delicate touch and tact. This combined with a well-performing cast and a script with empathetic and genuine feel ultimately offers a seriously intriguing story of second chances, hope, and love.

Buy A Love Song for Bobby Long Now

I won't go through a scene by scene description of the film since others have already done that. I will say that this is an excellent film with real characters and complex personalities. There is no sex, nobody is blown up, not an once of blood and still it's vastly entertaining! Who would have thought it? Bobby and Percy and Lawson are all very real and earthy people with real and earthy problems that aren't washed away in an instant by miracles. I've read that this movie went on too long.......In my opinion it wasnt long enough. Great Work!!

Read Best Reviews of A Love Song for Bobby Long Here

I'm not picky about movies, but a lot of times I find myself trying to avoid the drawn-out character studies. They really get to me usually, firing straight down into my core, making me really feel. And that makes my somewhat ansy. The truth is that the best movies are often the ones we tend to overlook, and I'm ashamed to say that I didn't want to watch this. I'm so glad I did. It was the best couple hours I've spent watching a movie in a long time.

Bobby Long is John Travolta, an ex-English professor who once had a big house and a nice family, but now lives in a dilapidated home in New Orleans where he drinks like a fish and eloquently rants about how wonderfully misunderstood he is. He lives with a younger man named Lawson, a former student of Long's, and an aspiring writer. Most of his work ends up in the fireplace. The home these two guys share belonged to a woman named Lorraine, who has just passed away, everyone being able to tell stories about what a great woman she was. Lorraine had an estranged daughter named Pursy (Scarlett Johansson), and upon learning about her mother's death, leaves Florida and her trailer-park life to discover the memory of her mother, as well as discover herself with the help of a couple very intelligent drunks. Just when Bobby thinks he has learned all he could ever know, life throws him a curve ball.

Truly, a wonderful film. It moves along at a decent pace, slow enough for you to feel sucked into the Alabama lifestyle they lead, but fast enough to keep you interested in their engrossing lives. Don't skip out on this one. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

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I loved this film! Some critics knock the movie for using some clichés and there are some aspects of New Orleans in particular that are romanticized. Romanticism aside, the cinematography is beautiful and the film features many of New Orleans great attractions such as the Café du Monde, the old mansions of the garden district, and the dreamy Audubon Park. Of course, what is New Orleans without music? The soundtrack is a wonderful mix of jazz and twangy southern blues that is nicely incorporated into the plot. If that doesn't do it the acting alone makes the film worth seeing. The script is well-written, and the actors do a good job of making it seem spontaneous and real. I never felt like they were reading from a script. John Travolta's performance as the washed-up Bobby Long, an alcoholic former English professor who reminisces about his glory days is magnificent and one of his better performances. Gabriel Macht, plays Lawson Pines, the brilliant, guilt-ridden writer who can't seem to write anything good. Macht, best known for independent films, is one of the better kept secrets of the film world. His allegiance to Bobby is touching and also leaves you wondering, "Why?" His performance is very well done. Scarlett Johansson who plays Pursy Will completes the package and is the powerhouse of the film, but does so without overshadowing the other cast members. Her portrayal of a lonely, strong-willed young woman who reminds her two has-been roommates that they are still alive and capable of much more than drunken lechery is superb and believable. Overall, I think the film is very well done and entertaining. It is a story that highlights many human frailties and struggles and it demonstrates that redemption can be found through friendship and family in the most unlikely places.

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