A Love Song for Bobby Long Review
Jaded teenager Purslane (Scarlett Johansson) is going nowhere fast. She lives the life she tried so desperately to avoid, living with a man whom she neither loves nor likes in a run-down, trailer trash style home in Florida. Upon hearing of her mother's recent death, Purslane decides to pack up and leave her humdrum existence, and return to New Orleans to recover her mother's home. She hopes to turn the house into her own, but is shocked to find that not only is the house falling to pieces, but that two men, former English professor Bobby Long (John Travolta) and his protégé, Lawson Pines (Gabriel Macht), whom Bobby hopes will write a novel based around his life, have been living in the house since her mothers death. So, against their will, the three mismatched individuals are forced to live with each other, but soon buried secrets begin to present themselves, some of which show that they are connected much more than they were led to believe.
A dawdling drama this one, with the emphasis firmly on love and loss and all things gloomy. Sure, for some this sort of film will bring tears to the eyes and send hearts soaring, but for me this one is a damp squid.
Performance wise, Travolta is miscast in the title role, his usually cool, suave exterior stripped down to that of the miserable, depressive soul of Bobby, which neither suits him nor gives him any room to show the talents we all know he has. Macht gives the film a boost as the tender and warm-hearted Lawson, but he too is never given any room to stretch his acting muscles because of the weak script. The film's trump card is Johansson, who just gets better every time I see her. Here, she gives another mature and confident performance, conveying the heartbreak and zeal of Purslane superbly and enjoys some nice moments with Macht, even though the attraction between them is somewhat unnatural.
Indeed, the whole film has a forced feel to it, with director Shainee Gabel's script coming across a somewhat sour look into the human spirit, rather than the triumphant, heartbreaking story it wants to be, only choosing to turn on the sweetness and charm occasionally, most notably in the film's final third, when the final twist can be spotted from the opening credits. For a directorial debut, this is a solid if unspectacular show from Gabel, who shows a few glimpses of excellence, particularly in her use of wide lenses, which perfectly captures the surroundings of New Orleans.