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A Love Song for Bobby Long

Sweet Music that Will Move You

For some reason, middle-aged men seem to be paired quite often with Scartlett Johansson. Is it the roles she just so happens to choose? Is it her lot in life since her breakout role in Lost in Translation? Do casting agents scrutinize her and say, "I know just what you need -- a forty-five year old!" In fact, every single movie in which I have seen her (Lost in Translation, The Girl with the Pearl Earring and now A Love Song for Bobby Long) includes some man twice her age thinking something about her he probably shouldn't.

At least the fresh-faced characters she portrays have the composure to withstand such leering ways. Here she plays Pursy Will, a young woman who returns to New Orleans after she hears about the death of her mother only to encounter two classic lit-quoting, hard-drinking chain-smoking dirty, old men -- Bobby Long (John Travolta) and Lawson Pines (Gabriel Macht) -- who have shacked up in her home. After they inform her in not- so-many subtle ways that they intend on staying in the derelict clapboard shack they call 'home', they try and run her out.

But she stays and the three create a dysfunctional household founded on secrets, deceit, desire and nicotine. A Love Song for Bobby Long is shrouded in mystery from the very start. There are a lot of questions here along with the questionable characters. The first being Pursy's absentee mother Lorraine. You'll find yourself sucked into the characters' lives, asking all the relevant questions. What was Lorraine actually like? How did these two men factor into her and her daughter's life? What was Bobby and Lawson's big secret? What the hell was wrong with Bobby's blackened, rotting foot?

While Gabel satisfies your curiosity, she plays her cards closely, never divulging all the secrets there are to be told. All the acting here is top-notch. Johansson delivers her customary strong performance while Macht gives a wonderfully conflicted portrayal. However, it is Travolta here who really shines. He has rich material to work with and an amazing character full of nuance. In one great scene that is worth mentioning, he launches into a raunchy yet indelible childhood story while lounging with his gang of comrades, which culminates is his lasciviously saying the word "pussy!" over and over again mostly just to raise Pursy's ire.

Based on the novel Off Magazine Street by Ronald Everett Capps and directed and adapted by Shainee Gabel, this majestic yet slowly unraveling tale is essentially about penance and redemption, told in an understated manner full of witty dialogue and lovely music. This movie is as much a love song for New Orleans as it is for Bobby Long.

Rating: 4 out of 5