A Love Song for Bobby Long Shainee Gabel

First-time director Gabel has shot a beautifully textured film that genuinely captures the rustic beauty of New Orleans. It's a setting that is both rich in colour and downtrodden in its buildings and inhabitants — a contrast that not even John Travolta can spoil. In fact, Travolta, who plays Bobby Long, is so un-Travolta it's refreshing to hear his voice (a deep, Southern accent) and see his face (an aged, scruffy old one) with thinning (possibly even real) bright white hair. In other words, this isn't Danny Zuko we're watching. The story revolves around three characters and their struggle to survive as a dysfunctional family with a big secret. When 18-year-old Pursy Will's (Scarlett Johansson) mother dies, she goes to the Big Easy to claim the house and possessions. Upon her arrival she finds her mother's friends, former English professor Bobby and his protégé Lawson (Gabriel Macht), who have been squatting in the house for years. Their meeting causes internal conflicts, which smooth out over time, but not without a lot of work. Of course, there is a hidden secret involving the true identity of Pursy's unknown father, but if you can walk and talk, you can see it coming. While the photography of Bobby Long is stunning, Gabel has written a script that is just too predictable and thin. The relationships between the three characters are all fairly complex, and they do pan out, but it's difficult to attach yourself to any of them, as they're all so partial, even Travolta's eccentric and callous character. Gabel's commentary, along with cinematographer Elliott Davis, is most insipid, especially since the film lacks the necessary substance to keep a viewer engaged. The deleted scenes are plentiful and reveal certain truths but really work more as background sources on the minute details of the big picture. A "behind the scenes" featurette gives a little insight into Gabel's inspiration, which she claims is the disposition of New Orleans. However, once Travolta shares his ostentatious thoughts on the city, you begin to thank the sweet lord that they made a stop button. (Columbia/Sony)