FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Frank Capra |||
Frank Capra

It goes without saying that Capra is one of the greatest and most beloved directors of all time, especially renowned for his madcap romantic comedies. He is one of the few directors who ever managed to balance whimsy with meaningfulness without loosing the ability to entertain.

Only Frank Capra, with his light hand and good sense of allowing the actors to be their roles, could carry off this tale of a naive average American used by an unscrupulous politician through a nationwide goodwill drive. No one was ever better at having strong yet vulnerable women not only aid, but often come to the rescue, of the leading man.

Frank Capra's final film is a hilarious translation of a Damon Runyon tale set in 1930s New York, as gangster Glenn Ford repays street peddler Bette Davis for her "good luck" apples by passing her off as a well-to-do society lady for her visiting daughter (Ann-Margret in her film debut). This excellent and thoroughly enjoyable remake of his own 1933 "Lady for a Day" is a beautiful swan song to a master storyteller. Widescreen!

In this black comedy about two sweet old ladies whose basement holds a murderously funny secret, Capra utilizes star Cary Grant to his zany, patented “double take” best. Capra’s brilliance in comic casting is demonstrated with such reliable character actors as Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre and Jack Carson who manage to play their parts to the hilt without chewing up the scenery.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht

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A Love Song For Bobby Long

By BrianOrndorf

January 13th, 2005

As sludgy as the tired New Orleans locations that pepper the film, “Love Song for Bobby Long” is a television production that some how lucked into becoming a theatrical presentation. The performances save the film, even when they reach parody. Quite an unremarkable debut for writer/director Shainee Gabel.


Upon hearing of her estranged mother’s death, aimless Pursy (Scarlett Johansson) travels from her trailer park in Florida to New Orleans to attend the funeral. When she arrives, she finds two men living in her mother’s house: Bobby Long (John Travolta), a former college professor turned alcoholic, and his teaching assistant turned alcoholic, Lawson Pines (Gabriel Macht, “The Recruit”). The two drunks manage to con their way into staying at the house, but in doing so, they allow Pursy to complicate their lives through her post-mortem soul searching. In the process, the three become a semi-family, which the distant and self-medicating Bobby cannot handle.

I’m convinced that New Orleans life is one of the hardest experiences to capture correctly on film. Most filmmakers tend to overcompensate, reveling in the sludgy drawl, the red-beans-and-rice atmosphere, and the heavily covered French quarter area. The legendary location is a powerful lure, no doubt, and “Bobby Long” is the latest film to become caught up in the details if the region, but not the heart of it.

Taken from the novel by Ronald Everett Caps, “Bobby Long” is a character piece about life in the slo-mo world of New Orleans, and an unremarkable one at that. Written and directed by newcomer Shainee Gable, it’s mean to classify “Bobby Long” as television production quality, but unfortunately that’s what the picture resembles. Gable can only attack the material in a pedestrian way, which does nothing to spark this loosely wound drama. Gable has difficulty luring the audience in with her direction or her screenwriting, leaning heavily on a supposed “whopper” of a twist ending which, while endearing and sweetly performed, can be seen coming from a mile away. Sad to say, I thought this was the point for a large portion of the film, only to realize that Gable wanted her climactic reveal to shock her viewers. She missed the boat on that one.

Another problematic element in the film is Gable’s treatment of the lower-class stereotypes that parade around her story. It’s one thing to try the capture that elusive feel of the impoverished and drunk in New Orleans, but did one of characters have to sit barefoot in a dry kiddie pool nursing a beer? And are we to believe that Pursy, in Scarlett Johansson form, sits around all day eating spoons of peanut butter dipped in M&Ms (apparently the definitive white trash treat)? This side of “Bobby Long” comes off as cartoonish and insulting. It also successfully neuters the significant emotional work that Gable attempts to build in the film’s second half.

If “Bobby Long” is worthwhile for anything it would have to be the performances. Teetering on the edge of parody, John Travolta barely passes by with his thick Naw’lins accent. Travolta becomes more comfortable with the script as the film rolls along, and his portrayal of an educated drunk, while incredibly odd at first, starts to feel organic at just the right moment. Travolta is good here, but he’s lucky to survive Gable’s anvil touch. Scarlett Johansson fares much better, if only because she isn’t saddled with the self-conscious burden of having to portray a boozehound. The chemistry between the two actors is agreeable, and they deliver the pathos required to make the ultimate connection between them. Without their pleasing but mild work this film would be instantly forgettable.

My rating: C-