Preview by: Jack Foley
IT'S been a while since film fans have heard anything from Scarlett
Johannson, given the clamour surrounding her following Lost
in Translation and Girl
With A Pearl Earring last year.
But the beginning of 2005 looks set to be similarly busy for
her, given her strong performance in festival favourite, A Love
Song For Bobby Long, and her vocal turn in animated hit, The Spongebob
In A Love Song For Bobby Long, however, she plays jaded teenage
loner, Purslane Horminy Will, who returns to New Orleans following
the death of her mother to reclaim her childhood home.
Far from finding an empty property, however, Pursy is shocked
to find it inhabited by two of her mother's friends - Bobby Long
(John Travolta), a former literature professor, and his young
protege, Lawson Pines (played by Gabriel Macht).
Determined to reclaim the property as her own, however, Pursy
is forced to live with these two desperate men, subsequently developing
a relationship with the duo that unearths buried personal secrets
that challenge their bonds and reveal just how inextricably their
lives are intertwined.
A Love Song For Bobby Long is described as a film about love
and human frailty and played to positive reviews at last year's
Venice Film Festival. It marks another strong performance for
the highly-rated Johannson, as well as a strong role for Travolta.
In describing her character, however, Johannson has stated: "I
don't think she feels sorry for herself. That's what's so great
about the character. Pursy has made something of herself with
her parents being completely absent.
"She doesn't dwell on the past or how things could have
been. She's very realistic. Pursy quite literally comes in and
the shades fly up and the light comes in. She's putting a mirror
up to them and saying, 'I might be young and I might be uneducated,
but this is what I see. You guys are a mess."
But it was the chance to appear alongside Travolta that really
got her excited: "We worked so great together. John is just
so gifted and giving, and he's such an amazing, caring human being.
And after all this time, he still has the ability to surprise
"Have you seen him in the last couple of months? Well, I
won't spoil the surprise, but wait until you see what he's done
physically to play this part. It's unbelievable, and he's brilliant."
The film marks the directorial debut of Shainee Gabel, working
from her own script inspired by the novel Off East Magazine St.
by R.E. Capps.
A Love Song For Bobby Long drew a favourable response from US
critics when it opened just after Christmas.
Variety stated that 'John Travolta and Scarlett
Johansson make this tale of misfits thrown together an agreeable
enough time-passer despite newcomer Shainee Gabel's flowery dialogue
and pedestrian direction'.
While the New York Observer wrote that 'conjuring
memories of my own student days in the bayou belt, I recall English
professors on Southern campuses who were the spitting image of
everything Mr. Travolta says and does in this film'.
And the Hollywood Reporter opined that 'this
may not be a big picture, but its pleasures will linger long'.
Slant Magazine, meanwhile, stated that 'the
film’s bucolic South is a kooky backdrop for a reasonably
intelligent look at people living their lives through a filter
of literary pretense'.
And Aboutfilm.com wrote: "Saturated with
fertile colors and great regional rock and blues, the unhurried
atmosphere seems as intoxicated as its characters."
Newsday, meanwhile, opined that the film 'has
a cast magnetic enough to make you overlook the movie's hothouse-flower
flimsiness as melodrama'.
While the Los Angeles Times felt that 'if there's
something a little bit moldy about the setup, the movie is no
less charming or involving for it, and it's no less pleasant to
succumb to its wayward allure and wastrel lyricism'.
And Reelviews wrote that 'the acting by Scarlett
Johansson is so raw and sincere that the film leaves an impact
despite its deficiencies'.
But on a more negative note, the New York Times warned
that 'in the first feature directed by Shainee Gabel, John Travolta
delivers a hammed-up scenery-chewing variation of the brainy good
ole boy he played in Primary Colors'.
And Filmcritic.com felt that it 'might be a
story with greatest appeal to those who like their conflicts and
issues soft, quiet, and unexplosive'.
The New York Post, meanwhile, labelled it 'endless
But the Los Angeles Daily News liked it, stating
that it's 'one of those stylized Southern writing deals that doesn't
come off the least bit realistic, but can be mighty fine fun to
just kick back and listen to'.
And Compuserve concludes this round-up by stating
that there are 'no great surprises in this story, including the
fact that Scarlett Johansson is excellent as usual'.
The film will open in the UK later this year.