Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: John Travolta, Scarlett Johansson, Gabriel Macht, Deborah Kara Unger
Director: Shainee Gabel
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: See Review
Length: 120 Minutes
Release Date: April 19, 2005

"Your mother hasn't lived here for years, and I don't believe that she thought you'd be interested."

"Well Lorraine was great at being wrong."

Film ***1/2

Films about people in some kind of turmoil often showcase the most memorable characters, as well as dynamic performances. Such is the case with A Love Song For Bobby Long, a southern based tale of the most distinctive characters coming to discover a connection that dwells underneath a surface. This is a most remarkable character study fueled by three outstanding performances.

The film opens with a funeral in New Orleans. One of the onlookers is Bobby Long (John Travolta), an aging, long time drunk who shared a special bond with the person who has just been buried in the ground. That person was a woman named Lorraine, and when her long lost daughter, Pursy Will (Scarlet Johansson) gets word of the funeral, she's shocked beyond words that nobody told her sooner, least of all her boyfriend who knew way ahead of time.

Pursy returns home to pay her respects, despite being a bit late. When she arrives at the doorstep of her mother's home, she is astonished at what she discovers. Two men have inhabited the residence. There's Bobby Long and his "would be" biographer Lawson Pines (Gabriel Macht). Bobby tells Pursy that her mother left each of them 1/3 of the property in her will.

Bobby, hardly going through a minute of his life without being boozed up, seems to be on a similar mission as the Nicolas Cage character in Leaving Las Vegas. The only difference is that where as Cage's character was on a much determined mission to drink himself to death, Bobby seems to be mostly living in a fantasy world, refusing to confront the man that he's become.

He was once an idolized professor of English at Auburn. A past incident resulted in him quitting his profession and leading a drunken life. Lawson hopes to eventually complete a book about the man. For now, Bobby spends his days and nights liquored up and endlessly quoting literature from the likes of Dickens and Ben Franklin.

The film ultimately becomes a journey for the three characters, particularly Pursy, who learns as much as she can from Bobby about what kind of person her mother really was. She has been living the last several years in Florida, shacked up with a slack, but harmless, boyfriend, and was estranged from her mother for the longest time. For Bobby, Pursy's mother served as a source of inspiration in the years following his giving up on teaching and life.

The heart of the movie lies in the honest and heartbreaking performances from Travolta, Johansson and Macht. Here we have John Travolta, perhaps the youngest looking fifty year old guy, made into a wrinkle-filled man who age range appears to be in the 70s. It's a fascinating transformation, and Travolta scores another winning performance, delving into an emotional depth I don't believe we've seen from him.

And young beauty Scarlet Johansson illustrates yet again, following Lost in Translation, that she's a pure acting force. Her performance is one of both honesty and raw power. Playing perhaps her most conflicted role yet, I seriously think she was deserving of yet another Oscar nomination. Nevertheless, her outstanding work in this film, as well as previous films, can only serve as a sign of even greater things to come.

Lastly, supporting player Gabriel Macht, who made notable appearances in such films as The Recruit and Behind Enemy Lines, is most superb in the role of Lawson. His character goes through a little journey of his own, and even makes a little revelation to Pursy about what led to his current position in life. It's quite a tremendous breakthrough performance.

Directed by newcomer Shainee Gabel, A Love Song For Bobby Long is a richly told story of the journey of three broken souls, each looking for a light at the end of a dark tunnel. It's a most moving drama, brought to life by the incredible performances of the three leads.

Video ****

Columbia Tri Star delivers a consistently striking look of a disc. The film is frequent with lively cinematography and potent images, capturing the brooding feel of New Orleans. Colors are as absorbing as can be, in addition. An all the way marvelous job.

Audio ***

Despite being a dialogue-oriented piece, the 5.1 mix does manage to enliven with what it can. There is a vast array of contemporary blues on the soundtrack, including a couple of tunes sung by Travolta himself. Dialogue is heard in the most splendid form, and front stage where the sound is mostly played out, is balanced extremely well.

Features **1/2

Featured on the disc is a commentary track with director Shainee Gabel and cinematographer Elliot Davis, deleted scenes, a behind the scenes featurette, a trailer for this, as well as bonus previews for additional Columbia Tri Star releases.


A Love Song For Bobby Long, which was overlooked thanks to an extremely limited theatrical release, is a terrific multi-character study, fueled with powerful performances from John Travolta, Scarlet Johansson and Gabriel Macht. It's one character journey worth exploring.

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