Friday, September 18, 2009

A Love Song for Bobby Long

I'm generally not in the habit of reviewing movies. But last night, my wife and I watched a feature on the Independent Film Network that kept me awake last night, and remained on my mind this morning. The movie in question is A Love Song for Bobby Long (2004), with John Travolta, Scarlett Johansson and Gabriel Macht. I had never heard of the film, and apparently few others had either. I checked on reviews from the time, and critics generally panned the work--a simplistic and predictable plot, overly sentimental, and too self-consciously Southern Gothic. Yes, yes, yes, it is all those things. The movie is also a small treasure, with important things to say.

Set in one of the seedier neighborhoods of pre-Katrina New Orleans, the story revolves around those the movie refers to as the "invisible people"--washed-up alcoholics, misfits and lost souls--refugees all from their ruinous pasts. Together they find comfort, companionship and support, and maybe a bit of Grace along the way. Like any well-told tale, this is a story all about redemption.

I think I recognize these people, whether among extended family members or past work associates. I was particularly reminded of a favorite aunt, who lost everything over the course of disastrous, self-destructive, train wreck of a life. For more years than I care to remember, first my parents, and later my wife and I attempted damage control. I remember many trips to Houston, to retrieve her from the latest crisis. Over the years, I became quite familiar with the habitues of Nick's Ice House on the north side of town, a neighborhood much akin to that portrayed in the movie. We like to convince ourselves that our own lives are so much different than theirs. The main difference, as I see it, is that they know their lives are ruinous, while we often pretend that ours are not.

Some people reach a place in time
where they've gone as far as they can...

the place where wives and jobs
collide with desire...

that which is unknowable,
and those who remain out of sight.

"See what is invisible,
and you will see what to write."

That's how Bobby used to put it.

It was the invisible people
he wanted to live with.

The ones that we walk past every day.

The ones we sometimes become.

The ones in books
who live only in some one's mind's eye.

He was a man who was destined
to go through life and not around it.

A man who was sure the shortest path
to heaven was straight through hell.

but the truth of his handicap...

lay only in a mind both exalted
and crippled by too many stories...

and the path he chose to become one.

Bobby Long's tragic flaw
was his romance with all that he saw.

And I guess if people want to believe
in some form of justice...

then Bobby Long got his for a song.


Steve Robinson said...

Sounds like my kind of movie, John... sounds like my kind of people too. I'll look for it. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Saw it on IFC last night and it kept me awake too. Had to google it this morning. Was hoping to find the book it was based on. Anyone know if there is such? Really good movie. Can't believe that I had never heard of it.

Anonymous said...

Maybe my spirit is too young (21), but I think, if you like 'A Lovesong for Bobby Long', you might also like 'Stranger than fiction', in case you didn't know this movie yet.

ccmiranda said...

this is a favorite movie in our house, partly because we know Grayson Capps (his father wrote the book and he performs in the movie and wrote the theme song), but partly because we now live in New Orleans.

The book it is based off of is "Off Magazine St" by Ronald Everett Capps.

If you ever get to see Grayson Capps perform live, you have to go. His songs really take you on a journey much like this movie will.