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A Love Song For Bobby Long - Preview



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 Squarepants Movie.

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 an audience.

"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.

 

US reaction

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 and pretentious'.

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.

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