A Love Song for Bobby Long

Institute History

  • 1999 June Screenwriters Lab


There is a world that revolves around the hidden parts of New Orleans. It is a world that runs along the mythologized banks of the great Mississippi, now flanked by oil refineries. It is a world that meanders past the iron-latticed nineteenth century shotgun cottages that conjure a now-faded Gulf South grandeur: the paint is still brightly-colored, but peeling. It is not the New Orleans of Bourbon St. and Mardi Gras. But it is the New Orleans of corner bars that graciously shield its patrons from the time of day, playing generations of music that go unnoticed by the rest of the world. it is the beauty of decay, a face that still compels beneath its wrinkles—a place of dreams. It is the city's very ability to inspire that lands New Orleans a starring role as one of LOVE SONG's four main characters, playing the muse of Bobby Long.

Bobby Long is a professor of literature who, over the course of time, gets lost in the stories and characters of his lectures at a Georgia university. The New Orleans of Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner calls to him, echoing the chasm between the reality of his own life and the lives he reads about. His voracity for romance seduces him away from campus life to spend more and more time in New Orleans, where he becomes part of a world that promises to fill his emptiness.

When we meet Bobby, he is a man of 50 who abandoned his family and university too many years ago to count. He shares a house with his former star writing student, Lawson Pines, a man of 36 who followed his mentor to New Orleans. So taken by the infectious power of Bobby's passion for literature, Lawson came willingly, accepting the role of Bobby's compadre. Bobby's plan for them was to actually live the lives they read about and for Lawson to write their story, guaranteeing Lawson's destiny as the South's next great novelist and Bobby's as his most memorable character. years later, they have sunk into a version of their imagined life, but one that is a stripped, broken version of the color and sensuality that first lured them to their beloved city. The two men are still as close as they always were, Lawson's quiet intuition providing stability for Bobby's flamboyant eccentricities. But they are mere shells of the vivacious, intelligent, handsome men they once were, surviving on generic cigarettes, cheap vodka, and occasional woman and their treasured books. It is only through the kindness of their friend Lorraine, who abandoned her home in New Orleans years ago, they have a place to live. When the men get word that Lorraine has died and left the house to her estranged teenage daughter, Purslane, the equilibrium of their lives is threatened.

We begin our story on the day of Lorraine's funeral. Pursy, a guarded, opinionated, independent girl who's been on her own since she was 12, arrives at Lorraine's door expecting to move in. What she finds are two alcoholics living in a house and the volatile personality equation of bobby, Lawson and Pursy—the stage is set.

A LOVE SONG FOR BOBBY LONG is essentially a love story that revolves around three characters who have either forgotten how to love, decided never to love again or have never really know the meaning of the word. It is a story that examines the danger of a life intent on becoming art and the reality that lies somewhere between telling a story and becoming one. It is a story of an unlikely flower blossoming among those mistaken for weeds. But mostly it is the story of how three people of seemingly invisible status, become for one another.


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