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Southern Hospitality
by Scott Tunstall

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A Big Easy ball.

A Big Easy ball.
John Travolta is one of those movie stars who every once in a while will surprise you with not only his choice of roles, but also his performance. It's amazing the same guy who starred in drivel like Shout, The Experts, Battlefield Earth, and Swordfish has been involved with such seminal films as Carrie, Saturday Night Fever, Grease and Pulp Fiction.It has been a feast or famine career for Johnny, that's for certain. But it's his smaller projects, the ones that go relatively unseen, that have always peaked my interest. One such title is A Love Song for Bobby Long, a thoughtful drama set in the majestic city of New Orleans.

After the death of her estranged mother, independent teen Purcy Will (Scarlett Johannson) returns to her
Role models?

Role models?
childhood home in New Orleans. Upon arriving at her mother's ramshackle house, Purcy finds two squatters have taken up residence. One is ex literature professor Bobby Long (Travolta), a curmudgeonly drunk with a smooth southern drawl. The other is Bobby's protege, Lawson Pines, a brooding writer who prefers a bottle over a typewriter. With no place to go, Purcy moves in, much to the chagrin of a stubborn Bobby. Despite differences, the three make a home together. As Purcy, Bobby and Lawson draw closer to one another, long kept secrets are revealed. Three intertwined lives reach a crossroads. Each must leave behind a tragic past and allow old wounds to heal in order to begin anew.

Director/screenwriter Shainee Gabel crafts a multi-layered story about three lost
Three's company.

Three's company.
souls haunted by the ghosts of past mistakes. The crumbling house serves as a metaphor for the broken characters. By fixing the house together, Purcy, Bobby and Lawson are in reality fixing themselves. However, a fresh coat of paint is a cosmetic repair; it can cover-up the outside but can't mend the inside. To free themselves from self-imposed prisons they must learn to accept, forgive and love. Fear prevents them from advancing: fear of failure, fear of success, fear of the unknown. Pastel images of a serene pre-Katrina gulf coast provide a welcome respite from the drama. In addition, a toe-tapping soundtrack consisting of blues and jazz enhances the Big Easy atmosphere.

Travolta delivers one of his finest performances playing the charming, tortured Bobby Long.
Oh sweet Scarlet.

Oh sweet Scarlet.
He spins boyhood tales, quotes the great authors, and lives a life of whimsy, never allowing his personal demons to surface. I've never been a fan of Scarlet Johansson's acting, but her transformation from headstrong little girl to responsible young woman is pleasing. The real find is Gabriel Macht as Lawson. If Bobby is the id, Purcy the ego, then Lawson is the superego. He is a leash to Bobby and a mediator between Bobby and Purcy. Lawson's thick beard hides a bounty of hurt, but it's his good-nature that attracts Purcy and keeps Bobby sane. Characters with depth and an intriguing script that avoids being overwrought makes A Love Song for Bobby Long a sleeper of a movie. See it if for no other reason than watching John Travolta be an actor instead of a movie star.

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Eye On The Overlooked
Every other Sunday

A lot of great movies slip through the cracks. I'm here to catch them.

Other Columns
Other columns by Scott Tunstall:

High School Can Be Murder

A Wolf In Girl's Clothing

Ten Great Films From the 2000s

Down With The System

Stranger In A Strange Land

All Columns

Scott Tunstall
Scott is a freelance writer currently living in the Southeast. He is a film school grad with a love of theory and screenwriting. His tastes vary from obscure niche films to giant Hollywood blockbusters. In other words, he'll watch pretty much anything.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Scott Tunstall by clicking here.

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