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With Jim Sabatini

A Love Song for Bobby Fisher

A Love Song for Bobby Fisher
John Travolta, Scarlett Johansson, Lawson Pines, Deborah Kara Unger

Rated: R 
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: December 29, 2004 Released by: Lions Gate Films

John Travolta and Scarlett Johansson headline the literary minded southern drama A Love Song for Bobby Long which is a little too unhurried and quotable for its own good.

The pacing is reminiscent of A Slipping Down Life which boasted creditable actors like Guy Pearce and Lili Taylor. Here Travolta is given a character role that appears to be asking "for your consideration" when it concerns the jaded life in the Bayou of a grizzled intellectual. There's enough scenery for him to chew in this venture into Shainee Gabel's vision of a crossroads for a middle aged guy like Travolta's gray haired, black toed Bobby.

Johansson, also concurrently featured with another middle-aged star Dennis Quaid in Paul Weitz's In Good Company, is cast here as Pursulane or Pursy (named after a flower) who has to leave the Florida Panhandle or "Redneck Riviera" for the funeral of her estranged mother Lorraine, once an established lounge country singer, in New Orleans.

Pursy misses the funeral because of a message given by her irresponsible boyfriend. She comes lightly packed to live in her mother's ramshackle home, not knowing that the aging Bobby, once a literature instructor at Auburn, and his young protege, Lawson Pines (Gabriel Macht of The Recruit) are staying there and are content.

Lorraine apparently left the place for the three of them, but Bobby isn't very kind to Pursy in an unflattering, rather obnoxious manner hoping she'll leave. Yet, Pursy, who lost contact with her mother, wants to make a new life for herself where she grew up.

The script by Gabel from the novel Off Magazine Street isn't one that most haven't seen before with elements of self-doubt and secrets strung together with some poetic, atmospheric flavor. Macht makes Lawson more interesting than expected as he is driven to write about Bobby's colorful life while having feelings for Pursy and a waitress, well done by Deborah Kara Unger. The pacing just doesn't keep from flagging as Pursy gets home schooled for a GED and will get in to a nearby college. The personal dissolution will gradually shift, but hardly with any momentum or lift.

A Love Song for Bobby Long has some flair for country tunes and Travolta gets to show off his dancing with a game, adult Johansson, but the intention of a moving drama flounders under pretentiousness of prose from the likes of Moliere or T.S. Eliot.

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