A Love Song for Bobby Long

A Love Song for Bobby Long

Original poster
Directed by Shainee Gabel
Produced by Shainee Gabel
David Lancaster
R. Paul Miller
Bob Yari
Randall Emmett
George Furla
Brad Krevoy
Screenplay by Shainee Gabel
Based on Off Magazine Street
by Ronald Everett Capps
Starring John Travolta
Scarlett Johansson
Gabriel Macht
Music by Nathan Larson
Cinematography Elliot Davis
Edited by Lisa Fruchtman
Lee Percy
El Camino Pictures
Crossroads Films
Yari Film Group
Emmett/Furla Films
Distributed by Lionsgate
Release dates
Running time
120 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $1,841,260

A Love Song for Bobby Long is a 2004 American drama film written and directed by Shainee Gabel. The screenplay is based on the novel Off Magazine Street by Ronald Everett Capps.


Combining elements of Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner, the story focuses on eighteen-year-old Purslane Hominy Will, who leaves the Florida trailer park where she lives with her abusive boyfriend to return to her hometown of New Orleans following the drug overdose death of her jazz singer mother Lorraine, a free spirit she had not seen for several years. The girl is startled to discover one-time Auburn University professor of literature Bobby Long and his protégé and former teaching assistant, struggling writer Lawson Pines, living in her mother's dilapidated fixer-upper home. Both men are heavy drinkers who spend their days smoking numerous cigarettes, quoting Dylan Thomas, Benjamin Franklin, and T.S. Eliot, playing chess, and spending time with the neighbors while Bobby strums a guitar and sings melancholy country-folk songs. The two convince Pursy her mother left the house to all three of them, although in reality she is the sole heir and the time they legally are allowed to remain in it is limited by the terms of the will.

Pursy moves in and proves to be the most responsible and sensible member of the dysfunctional family the three create. The men's efforts to drive her away gradually abate as they grow fond of her with the passing of time. Bobby - unshaven, slovenly, and suffering from ailments he prefers to ignore - attempts to improve the lot of the young girl by introducing her to The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and encouraging her to return to high school and get her diploma. Lawson, suffering from writer's block, finds himself attracted to Pursy but hesitant to complicate his life further by becoming involved with her. Memories of Lorraine linger for all of them, especially Pursy, who vividly recalls her mother ignoring her in favor of pursuing a career. Her sense of who her mother was is altered somewhat when she finds a cache of letters Lorraine wrote her but never mailed, letters that lead her to discover not only how her mother really felt about her, but the true identity of her father as well.



According to the film credits, it was shot on location in New Orleans and Gretna, Louisiana.

The soundtrack includes "Someday" by Los Lobos, "Bone" by Thalia Zedek, "Lonesome Blues" by Lonnie Pitchford, "Different Stars" and "Lie in the Sound" by Trespassers William, "All I Ask is Your Love" by Helen Humes, "Rising Son" by Big Bill Morganfield, "Praying Ground Blues" by Lightnin' Hopkins, "Blonde on Blonde" by Nada Surf, and the title track, "A Love Song For Bobby Long" by Grayson Capps, who happens to be the son of the writer (Ronald Everett Capps) of the novel that the film is based on.

The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September 2004. In order to qualify for Academy Award consideration, it opened on eight screens in New York City and Los Angeles on December 29, 2004, earning $28,243 on its opening weekend. It played in only 24 theaters in the US at its widest release, and eventually grossed $164,308 domestically and $1,676,952 in foreign markets for a total worldwide box office of $1,841,260.[1]

Critical reception

Stephen Holden of The New York Times said: "[I]t dawdles along aimlessly for nearly two hours before coming up with a final revelation that is no surprise." He felt John Travolta was playing "a hammed-up, scenery-chewing variation of the brainy good ol' boy he played in Primary Colors," and thought Gabriel Macht's "understated performance" was "the deepest and subtlest of the three."[2]

In contrast, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times observed, "What can be said is that the three actors inhabit this material with ease and gratitude: It is good to act on a simmer sometimes, instead of at a fast boil. It's unusual to find an American movie that takes its time. It's remarkable to listen to dialogue that assumes the audience is well-read. It is refreshing to hear literate conversation. These are modest pleasures, but real enough."[3]

Carina Chocano of the Los Angeles Times said the film "is, deep-down, a redemptive makeover story drenched in alcohol, Southern literature and the damp romanticism of the bohemian lush life in New Orleans. A lovely noble rot pervades the film in much the same way that it does the city, a longtime repository of lost-cause romanticism. If there's something a little bit moldy about the setup (drunken literary types, hope on the doorstep, healing from beyond the grave), 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. Among other things, the characters . . . really know how to turn a phrase, in itself a pleasure so rare it all but demands any flaws be forgiven."[4]

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone rated the film two out of four stars, calling it "an elegant mess." He added, "The actors labor to perform a rescue operation . . . It's the stunning location photography of camera ace Elliot Davis that provides what the movie itself lacks: authenticity."[5]

Awards and nominations

Scarlett Johansson was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama.[5]

DVD release

The DVD was released in anamorphic widescreen format on April 19, 2005. It has audio tracks and subtitles in English, French, and Portuguese. Bonus features include commentary with screenwriter/director Shainee Gabel and cinematographer Elliot Davis, deleted scenes, and Behind the Scenes of A Love Song for Bobby Long with cast and crew interviews.


External links

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