Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Love Song for Bobby Long

A Love Song for Bobby Long; Drama, USA, 2004; D: Shainee Gabel, S: Scarlett Johansson, John Travolta, Gabriel Macht, Deborah Kara Unger, Dane Rhodes, Clayne Crawford

Florida. Pursy Will is an 18-year old girl who never finished high school, never found out who her father is and rarely kept contact with her mother Louisiana. When she hears her mother died and left her a house in New Orleans, she goes on to move there and out of her trailer. Although she is unpleasantly surprised that she has to share her new home with two men, Bobby Long, a retired English professor, and Lawson, a writer writing a book about him, they become friends and help her finish high school and apply for college. After finding out she alone is the new owner of the house, she gets angry and expels them. Still, she then finds out Bobby is actually her father and makes up with him. He dies from a disease.

Exclusively thanks to the performances of the three main actors, John Travolta - in a surprisingly slobby edition - Gabriel Macht and Scarlett Johansson - nominated for a Golden Globe as best actress - does the thin story in the film "A Love Song for Bobby Long" contain some charm and spark, but as a whole this independent drama missed too many opportunities and made too many schematic approaches to old dramaturgy cliches to stand out, even though it had an interesting concept that shows how sometimes the intellectual elite, such as writers and professors, tend to live unglamorous, almost castaway lives. A few good moments, like when Pursy finds out Lawson is writing a book about the seamy Bobby Long and can't resist but to imagine that and comment it with: "Chapter 1: I woke up, I got drunk, I passed out. Chapter 2: I woke up, I got drunk..." or when Bobby always quotes famous literature to bring a point across and uses it to criticize Lawson about his false love, upon which he replies with: "Do you always quote others because you don't have the courage to be yourself?" stir up the atmosphere, but the story still remains rather arbitrarily and anemic, where even the neat plot "twist" at the end doesn't help to lift up the general impression. "Bobby Long" really is a long film, without real substance, but here and there offers a few pleasant surprises and is a very solid achievement.


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