Movie Review: A Love Song for Bobby Long

By Moira Sullivan
Movie Magazine International
Shainee Gabelís A Love Song for Bobby Long was
featured in the New Horizons section of the Venice
International Film Festival last September, a film
based on the novel Off Magazine Street by Ronald
Everett Capps and adapted for the screen by Gabel.

Scarlettt Johansson has a lead role in the film and
was on the jury for the international competition in
Venice. palling around with sister juror Helen
Mirren. What more can be said about an aspiring young
starlet who has been overexposed in film after film,
and nominated several times as well. Young Scarlett
shows every sign of being as carnivourous about the
movie world as a lion cub. John Travalto, who plays
Bobby Long is looking for a way out of film after film
of mediocrity. What could be a better match. But alas
there is trouble in paradise. Scarlett as Pursy Will
is totally unbelievable as a wayward girl living in a
trailer with her boyfriend in Florida, scarfing down
junkfood. When her mother dies, she goes to the
funeral in New Orleans and finds Bobby Long, a down
and out literature professor and a young aspiring
writer, his TA from college, Lawson Pines ( Gabriel
Macht) both alcoholic. Pursy decides to stay and the
men do too. Bobby verbally abuses her with sexual
innuendoes, and she clearly shows irritation but
eventually learns to love the opportunity to improve
her mind beyond excessive TV watching. Everything has
a price, besides its her house.

Director Gabel spends so much time in this house (or
the bar) that the film relies almost exclusively on
sitting room dramas where Pursy and Bobby exchange
insults. The house is in severe disarray as is
everyoneís emotional state, and there is lot of
compulsive smoking and arm chair philosophy in the
air, none of it terribly interesting. After all the
two sages of the house are sods. Eventually they
become a somewhat gelled unit but not before the
skeletons in the closet are ventilated, hence the
obsessive need to hover indoors.

There is no female solidarity in the film except a
notable nostalgia by Bobby Long for Pursyís mother
Lorraine even though she clearly was beloved by others
in the town. Furthermore, Pursy tries to rival the
girlfriend of Lawson Pines, Georgiani, played by
Deborah Kara Unger. This is not good. The men want
Pursy out and Bobby encourages her to go to college,
so they can have the house.

Perhaps the whimsical lyrical style of Gabelís
filmmaking made it of interest to the New Horizons
section at Venice. A film made in the USA with a
slower tempo is appealing to the Italians, especially
with bankable stars as Johannson and Travolta. Gabel
relies on Scarlett Johansson to liven up the world of
these two symbiotic men - and even to serve as jail
bait. So its hard to imagine college professor Bobby
Long and his TA Lawson Pines without sexual harassment
charges in the past. Travolta not very convincingly
plays a learned man, falling on a string of bad luck
with notable charm. Scarlett provides all the oomph
she can. After everyone gets their lineage and
relationships straight there is not much dysfunction
left to sustain the movie.

For Movie Magazine This is Moira Sullivan, Venice
More Information:
A Love Song for Bobby Long
USA - 2004