A small film with a big cast that found only a small audience, "Love Song For Bobby Long" is still a fairly decent movie that will likely get a larger audience on DVD. The film opens with Purslane (Scarlett Johannson), an unusually attractive trailer dweller, is told by her boyfriend that her mother died - only he forgot to tell her. As a result, she ends up in New Orleans for a funeral a day late.
Once she arrives, she finds out that she's been left part of a grand, old (read: rundown) house from her mother. The only catch? She'd have to share it with drunken English professor Bobby Long (Travolta) and writer Lawson (Gabriel Macht). Although she originally decides to grab what she can of her mother's and leave, she eventually decides to stick around and wait for the two men to leave.
...While we wait for the inevitable surprise in the third act. And wait...and wait...and wait. In the meantime, the characters sit and talk and quote and drink and argue and open up and become something of a "family", but it all seems manufactured and melodramatic. Not only that, but the film is paced, shot and directed like all the lines contain great, deep meanings when the film doesn't exactly have much depth to it. It'd all be a disaster if the performances weren't as good as they are.
Johannson's terrific in a performance that really portrays Pursy's change from being guarded to opening up to those around her. Macht is also solid in a subtle supporting performance, and he and Johannson have good chemistry. Travolta's performance is the least interesting of the three, as his grouchy performance is fine, but rather forced.
However, even a few good-to-great performances can't entirely save "Bobby Long". The picture, which drags in several spots in the middle, often seems like an nearly entirely uneventful look at unsympathetic characters. A character study this small would likely have worked better as a play. Still, the few locations are nicely photographed by cinematographer Elliot Davis.
Directed by first-timer Shainee Gable, "Love Song For Bobby Long" delivers a trio of fine performances and gathers some atmosphere, but the story is simply too uneventful and, as a result, the film's lazy two hours seem like almost three.
VIDEO: "Love Song For Bobby Long" is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen by Columbia/Tristar. There are some minor concerns throughout the presentation, but I was largely pleased with how the film appeared here. Edge enhancement was the one issue of real note: although not severe, there were a few moments were mild amounts were visible.
Sharpness and detail were generally quite good, although some wide shots could look a bit soft in comparison. Surprisingly, for such a new movie, there were a few minor print flaws visible - a speck here, a mark there. No pixelation or other faults were spotted.
The film's rich color palette was presented quite well here, with rich saturation and no smearing. Flesh tones were accurate and natural, as well.
SOUND: The film is a dialogue-driven presentation and remains distinctly front-heavy. The rear speakers provided some minor reinforcement of the score during a couple of scenes and a couple of tiny bits of ambience, but the remainder of the film had the surrounds silent. Audio quality was fine, with a crisp, clear score and natural-sounding dialogue.
EXTRAS: We get a commentary from the director and cinematographer, 8 deleted scenes (with no optional commentary, a 28-minute "making of", the film's trailer and trailer for other Columbia/Tristar titles, including "DEBS", "Wild Things 3" and "Manny and Lo".
Final Thoughts: "Love Song" offers two good performances and one great one, but the thin, fairly predictable story really seemed overlong at times. Johannson fans should give it a rental. The DVD provides fine audio/video quality, along with a few good supplements. A mild rental recommendation.
The Film ** 1/2