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Love Song for Bobby Long, A  (2004)


Rating: R

Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: April 19, 2005
Review posted: April 21, 2005


Reviewed by Dylan Grant




Upon hearing of her mother’s death, jaded teenage loner Purslane Hominy Will (Scarlett Johansson) returns to New Orleans for the first time in years, ready to reclaim her childhood home.  Expecting to find her late mother’s house abandoned, Persy is shocked to discover that it is inhabited by two of her mother’s friends: Bobby Long (John Travolta), a former literature professor, and his young protégé, Lawson Pines (Gabriel Macht).  Pursy, Bobby Long and Lawson are forced to live together.  Yet as time passes, their tenuous, makeshift arrangement unearths a series of buried personal secrets that challenge their bonds, and reveal how inextricably their lives are intertwined.




Persy has not exactly made the most of herself.  Languishing in a trailer in Panama City, Florida – “The Redneck Riviera,” as Bobby Long calls it – she is stuffing her face with junk food and braining out in front of the television when we first meet her, when her boyfriend tells her that “some guy” called, and that Persy’s mother is dead.  He offers to console her: “Why don’t you cook me some dinner and I’ll go rent us a porno,” he says.  Somehow, Persy finds the courage to leave this charmer and heads back to New Orleans, where she grew up.


Bobby Long used to be an English professor at Auburn, his glory days, which he relives through Lawson.  Lawson was Bobby’s T.A., and job has turned from grading papers to walking Bobby through the aftermath of tragedy.  Lawson comes from privelige; he is Bobby with class and humility, and he is writing Bobby’s life story, an ongoing process.  Bobby is a great storyteller, and he has created a fantasy around himself, a protective shell of southern charm and old quotes; he has made a character of himself.  Lawson’s book about Bobby is itself a fiction.  The two men need each other; they are stuck in a teacher-student relationship that neither of them can get out from under.  Bobby is afraid that Lawson will leave him and he will die alone.  The book the two are working on is destined never to be finished.  The writing must go on.  When the book is finished, so are Bobby and Lawson.


Persy has her own protective shell, the hard edge she presents to the world.  She has been in limbo for some time.  She obviously never had a close relationship with her mother, Lorraine, and has a low opinion of her.  Persy is at a point in her life where she is no longer sure if the good memories she has from childhood are real, or if she just dreamed them up.  As she meets her mother’s friends, we see that not only does she not know her mother, Persy does not really know herself.


The performances are what make this film worth seeing.  The story moves along at its own predictable pace, and the revelations are far from stunning.  There is a familiarity to the events of the film that take away some of the power, but the acting is never off key.  Travolta is strong as Bobby Long.  At times he seems to be phoning it in, but he is never less than compelling.  Travolta is well complimented by Gabriel Macht (The Recruit, Grand Theft Parsons), who gives a complex performance as Bobby’s T.A.-for-life.  The stand out here is Scarlett Johanson, who covers more emotional range in this film than most actresses do in ten.


A Love Song For Bobby Long is not a great film, and it is certainly nothing new, but it is highly watchable, if only for the memorable work by this talented cast and the stunning, vibrant photography.




A Love Song For Bobby Long is presented in the original 1.85:1 shooting ratio.  The photography is one of the best things about this film, and the full range of colors is exceptionally translated.  The black and white levels are well balanced, bringing the full vibrancy of the local New Orleans color to life.  The overall transfer is pristine.




This DVD is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital, with language tracks in English, French and Portuguese.  The presentation here is quite good, with wide, clear dispersal.  This is mostly a quiet film, but the audio really shows itself off during any scenes with live music.




Audio Commentary With Director and Cinematographer: Gabel and Director of Photography Elliot Davis, neither of whom have the most electric personalities, talk about shooting the film.  Davis talks the most, giving much interesting detail about the photography.


Deleted Scenes: Eight deleted and extended scenes, none of which are very long.  There is so little here, in fact, that this feature is of little interest.


Behind the Scenes of A Love Song For Bobby Long: The cast and director talk about the evolution of the film, the characters, shooting on location, and other tidbits about the making of the film.  A pretty lifeless featurette, with the exception of Travolta.  He comes off really stoned, so it is kind of funny to hear him say things like, “I’m more gregarious.”




A Love Song For Bobby Long is a highly watchable film with memorable acting all around.  The special features are detailed but dull, and it would be hard to recommend this as a purchase.  For something to watch, there are worse things.




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