I didn’t think that Scarlet Johansson had an active eye or ear for drama films, that she does different stuff and has generally been incredibly lucky. Apparently, she’s got a good knack for appearing in films that have good stories also, as she had been attached to this film for quite some time.
Based on the novel by Ronald Everett Capps, A Love Song for Bobby Long tells the story of Pursy (Johansson), who has recently found out her mother died, so she travels back to New Orleans and meets Bobby Long…(John Travolta, Michael), a former college professor who, along with his teaching assistant Lawson (Gabriel Macht, The Recruit), have left their college lives in Alabama and decided to come to New Orleans, and have stayed for years in the house that Pursy’s mother, Lorraine, owned. In the midst of it all, Pursy is a kid barely out of high school (who actually dropped out in 10th grade) and sees her mother’s former friends as scumbag alcoholics. Lawson has been trying to write a novel for several years, and Bobby seems to be slowly pickling himself to death.
In Pursy, Bobby and Lawson seem to see the potential and the future that they once had but squandered, and will try to do anything possible to get that back for Pursy and in a smaller way, themselves. The film is a shade under two hours, which allows you time to get acquainted with the small circle of friends within Bobby and Lawson’s area, including Georgianna (Deborah Kara Unger, The Hurricane), who has a modest affair with Lawson, and some musicians that play with Bobby and were a part of Pursy’s mother’s band (she was a singer), along with a neighbor who served as somewhat of a caretaker to Pursy’s mother, named Cecil (Dane Rhodes, appearing in his first film).
Written and directed by Shainee Gabel, the film admittedly does move at a slow pace, but it really gives you some investment in the characters. Johansson does a credible job as a hostile young girl but grows up rather quickly, and some of the scenes where she’s wearing her mother’s clothes really show off her attributes (not that, but she looks like Cybill Shepherd circa 1972 with her look sometimes). But it’s Travolta’s show to carry, and he does an excellent job. He makes some bold decisions in dying his hair white and making it look like it’s receding, and despite his size, he really gives you the impression of being a “broken” human being. He received a Golden Globe nomination with little fanfare, but perhaps should have gotten more attention for his performance, as it was one of the more underappreciated ones I’ve seen lately. A Love Song for Bobby Long is a good film with some outstanding acting in it, and despite the last few minutes, it’s a pleasant journey to take.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack sounds good when it needs to, and the surround speakers are used only when ambient sounds are necessary; and that’s not much in this movie. Still though, despite a soundtrack of dialogue that sounds somewhat muted, the inclusion of the 5.1 soundtrack is thoughtful.
The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen film that’s housed on the small disc of data is OK, though the image appears a bit grainier that one would expect and even is a bit dirty. The black levels on the film are consistent and the image is reproduced well, just not at the level of detail you would like in a movie with Scarlet Johansson.
Gabel and her director of photography Elliot Davis participate in a commentary track that concentrates more on the technical side of things than too much anecdotal stuff, and the usual talk about how well the actors worked together and some dead air from the two watching the film rather than commenting on it are here also. It’s an ordinary, semi-informative commentary track but you don’t miss much from not listening to it. There are 8 deleted scenes that total a little over 10 minutes in length, and these are actually pretty good and could have been substituted for some film from the final cut, as aside from a scene where Johansson and a guy make out in a car, some more details on Lawson’s emotions are flushed out somewhat. There’s a 30 minute behind the scenes look at the film, where Gabel, Johansson, Travolta, Rhodes and Macht share their feelings on the cast, story and location. While Travolta has an interesting quote here, saying “it’s always tricky when you hire me,” the praise of his performance helps to pay things off here. Rounding out the set are 8 trailers, one of which is for the film itself.
An almost forgotten film should find new life on DVD, as A Love Song for Bobby Long has a compelling story, interesting characters and good performances, including an excellent one for Travolta. The extras are fairly informational and the film looks good, and it’s definitely a worthy rental now that it’s hit video stores.
Special Features List
- Director’s Commentary
- Deleted/Extended Scenes
- Behind the Scenes Featurette