A Love Song for Bobby Long

John Travolta, in the title role of A Love Song for Bobby Long, is going the way of Al Pacino. Every single role he has uses the same facial expressions and vocal tics. As Bobby Long, he gets to ham it up more than usual, because Long is a barely functioning alcoholic. Everything he does in his performance is what his fans love, so they won't be complaining. Nevertheless, it is Travolta (Ladder 49, The Punisher) who brings down Love Song, based on the novel by Ronald Everett Capps. This is another one of those southern movies where plot is secondary, and what matters more in the mind of writer/director Shainee Gabel (Anthem) is atmosphere.

Gabel does do a good job in creating a slower-paced world. It's a shock for Pursy Will (Scarlett Johansson, The Spongebob Squarepants Movie, The Perfect Score), who returns to New Orleans after the death of her mother. Will was not on speaking terms with her mother, yet inherited her mother's house. When she arrives, she finds Long and Lawson Pines (Gabriel Macht, Grand Theft Parsons, The Recruit) living there. The actual agreement calls for her to receive the house after one year of cohabitation, but Long and Pines neglect to tell her this.

Will takes an instant dislike to Long, who does nothing to change this. Long and Pines drink and dawdle all day. The house is a mess. Long was once a respected English professor (which is why he quotes literature all day), but after some family issues, left his wife and now does nothing. Pines is working on a book. Pursy has her own problems. She never knew who her father was, and has an abusive boyfriend. She decides to stay to get a fresh start on life. Like anybody would expect, the three slowly form a strange family unit. Will gets Long and Pines to clean up their act and stop drinking, while they encourage her to finish school.

Approximately one year elapses within the film. Days pass slowly, with the three constantly confronting each other in the house. They do settle into a routine and understanding amongst each other, although Gabel never gives a great reason why Will stays in the first place. The plots eventually converge on reconciliation, and it's painfully obvious after half an hour who Will's father is. Everybody seems to be keeping a few secrets, and the revelations of what they are will cause Pursy to reevaluate her newfound friendliness to Pines and Long. Travolta's performance is so loud and obnoxious that is overshadows Johansson, who has a particularly nice scene near the end, and Macht, who do nice, but not spectacular work.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 59 minutes, Rated R for language including some sexual references.

Back to Movies