Review: A Love Song for Bobby Long

A Love Song for Bobby Long is beautiful movie, shot on location in New Orleans. It’s also a character-driven movie about a headstrong girl, Pursy Will (Scarlett Johansson), who goes back to her mother’s house only to find she missed her mother’s funeral. The house is haunted by two literary alcoholics – Bobby Long (John Travolta) and Lawson Pines (Gabriel Macht). They are seemingly determined to commit suicide by drinking themselves to death, taking an occasional break for a quote or a song.

Pursy decides to stay in the dilapidated house, much to Bobby’s surprise and displeasure. Lawson has spent the last nine years writing a book on Bobby’s life, which is the life of a failed English professor. We never see him write anything though. The only indication these nine years have yielded some pages is when he throws them one by one into the fireplace. He does get warm in the act and he almost gets the girl, so there’s some good news for authors of worthless novels.

Both Pursy and Bobby get their character arcs (Lawson doesn’t). Pursy paints and redecorates the house and gets to go to school. Bobby cuts on his drinking and actually goes to see a doctor. The movie manages to crawl predictably to a happy end of sorts by announcing that Bobby and Pursy are now father and daughter (and have always been apparently).

Compared to…Sideways” is a movie which focuses on drinking and writing and is clearly superior despite its lack of A-list actors. As to the “drinking yourself to death” part, I think Mike Figgis’ “Leaving Las Vegas” does a much more accurate portrayal of an alcoholic. I’m still amazed the doctors found nothing wrong with Bobby, yet he passed away several scenes later.

Conclusion
Overall, this is a pleasant, warm movie with good performances. It has a Golden Globe nomination which I attribute to the fact that a movie about writers will get a nod from a jury consisting of journalists.

I continue my review with a “lesson” that I got from watching it. On to Lesson: A Love Song for Bobby Long.

Info: A Love Song for Bobby Long
United States, 2004
Running Length: 1:54
Cast: John Travolta, Scarlett Johansson, Gabriel Macht
Director: Shainee Gabel
Producers: Shainee Gabel, David Lancaster, Paul Miller, Bob Yari
Screenplay: Shainee Gabel (based on Off Magazine Street by Ronald Everett Capps)
Cinematography: Elliot Davis

5 thoughts on “Review: A Love Song for Bobby Long

  1. Ralitza

    I like the movie and your review!

    To be honest the plot is a bit thin. I’m amazed that you managed to
    summarize it considering there isn’t much to summarize. If someone asks
    me what this film is about, I simply couldn’t tell him.

    I like the feeling in every scene though. I like the way each shot was
    taken. Even the simplest shot stays with you like a beautiful
    photograph, part of a wonderful album: the nature, the color of the
    grass, the clouds… I’m jealous. I have seen this in real life but I
    could’ve never taken it.

    In your “lessons” you discuss scenes that start but go nowhere. I agree
    with you on these but they seem like tiny plot holes when you compare
    them to the giant one – the Mother.

    Everyone loved her, she loved her daughter but she left her just the
    same. She never sent those letters but kept writing them. Why? Nobody
    knows – me neither.

    Another example is Pursy’s ex-boyfriend who came only to show her the
    lawyer’s letter and then disappeared. Who would travel so many miles to
    his “newly rich” girlfriend without trying to “claim” a part of the
    house?

    It would’ve been better to keep the story short and let Pursy find a
    letter in the mailbox before Bobby could hide it. There are a lot of
    scenes that go nowhere and a lot of questions that don’t get the answers
    they deserve.

    I didn’t “feel” that the film reflected real life. It does not build a
    real portrait of an alcoholic/professor or of a young lady that starts
    as a waitress and becomes a good student. Even the hours that three of
    them spend learning English ring a bit false.

    For me the film has another mission – to show the beauty of New Orleans’
    nature(covers all seasons), the beauty of literature (the quotes are
    great), and the beauty of every single moment, however mundane.

    I cried a lot at the end. Not because of the story – I didn’t find it
    touching. Bobby turns out to be her father? Great, but this smells like
    a soap opera to me. I didn’t cry because I empathize with the
    protagonist either. I cried because of the melancholy that fills the New
    Orleans landscape and permeates the movie.

    Thank you for your review. I saw the movie because I read it. I think
    we’re on the same page. Well, almost. I think I’m adding some (much
    needed) woman’s touch… and a tear. A tear for Bobby Long, that’s the
    title of my review.

  2. Administrator Post author

    Hi Ralitza, thank you for the comment. I do appreciate your perspective on the movie. I felt it had a lot of potential too but was somehow a bit misguided.

    I didn’t cry though… it’s a woman’s thing. Boys don’t cry!

  3. melinda

    This is one of the best movies I have ever seen.
    I don’t agree with the above reviews though.
    Concerning some of the above comments-
    You see Bobby Long’s black toes in the beginning which looks like diabetes and would eventually lead to blood poisoning if not amputated. Bobby therefore stays on Lawson about finishing his story because he knows he is dying. He doesn’t tell Lawson anything the doctor has said except that he needs to dry out.
    Lorraine never went back for Pursy because she fell back into the blackness after neither showed up for her show post mental hospital.
    Only after Lawson and Bobby help Pursy is Lawson able to see clearly the truth about Bobby which was summed up in the last lines of his book seen in the close of the movie.

  4. Administrator Post author

    Hi Melinda,

    Thanks for your perspective on Bobby Long. You could be making it up but the movie leaves a lot to the imagination. I haven’t seen a Q&A session with the director – maybe she did one.

    I think it could’ve been a better movie if it wasn’t for certain “gaps” or should we call them “underdeveloped scenes”. Maybe it was budgetary problems as some of the rumors seem to indicate.

  5. Emma

    I don’t agree with the negative criticism from some prior remarks. However, an opinion is an opinion. I thought the characters as well as the scenes were very well developed. Maybe I understood them because of my perspective. I was born and raised in New Orleans, enjoy literature and understand how alcohol can engulf a person’s life causing the destruction in Lawson and Bobby’s lives. I thought it was interesting how we never really knew who Pursy’s father was until the end. There were a few times that I thought the musician and the gardener were but never did I think Bobby was. It was beautiful how Bobby embraced Pursy as a daughter with no doubts and with so much love and honor. All of the actors were incredibly believable in their southern charm and characteristics. I did cry a few times and it was because of a combination of the scenary, acting, music and directing! Again, I’m not sure where the bad hype is coming from but it is undeserved in my humble opinion.

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