"Hard Luck Love Song probably won’t blow you away."
HARD LUCK LOVE SONG (2021)
Hard Luck Love Song had flown under my radar. I hadn’t heard all that much about it before I watched the trailer. The trailer looked gritty and seemed to show a rambling man who couldn’t quite get himself together. It seemed like there would be a loose plot, focused more on discovering things as they happen rather than a heavily event driven narrative.
This was the first feature film for director Justin Corsbie and it was a pretty good first attempt. He avoided some of the typical pitfalls of first time filmmakers and kept the story interesting the entire time. Corsbie doesn’t reinvent the wheel with Hard Luck Love Song. But he is able to tell a compelling story without using a lot of dialogue and without using flashy bells and whistles. For a first time filmmaker, Corsbie proves he is up to the task.
Hard Luck Love Song is loosely based off the song “Just Like Old Times” by Todd Snider. Jesse (Michael Dorman) is akin to a tumbleweed blowing in the wind. He rolls into town and operates as a pool shark to swindle people into giving him more money. The first half of the movie drags on a bit as we watch Jesse bum around town, play pool to make money, and play some songs on his guitar. This culminates in a pool tournament that Jesse winds up winning. He hustles his opponent who doesn’t take this lightly. Then the real meat of the story begins when Jesse reconnects with a woman from his past, Carla (Sophia Bush). Their relationship is easily the most interesting aspect of the movie as it is revealed they have a long, dark history together. We watch as this history is untangled over the course of a night. The plot is character driven and meanders through Jesse’s life as he attempts to navigate his own shortcomings.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
In a movie like this, the acting is perhaps even more important because it’s largely the characters that drive the movie forward. Luckily, the acting was superb in Hard Luck Love Song. Michael Dorman was charismatic from the very start and rarely didn’t have a cigarette perched on his lips. He perfected the nonchalant, drunken rambler role. I was impressed that he made Jesse so likeable. I was rooting for him, even as he made poor decisions and displayed less than desirable qualities. His tendency to hug strangers was endearing and showcased a softer side to his personality that was less obvious. Sophia Bush was also remarkable, playing a woman who is trying to do the right thing while being confronted by her past and feelings she would rather not acknowledge. The conversations between Jesse and Carla explore tough topics and both actors bring a believability factor that is essential for a movie like this.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
Hard Luck Love Song doesn’t have anything in the way of visual effects but the make-up and design was fantastic. Jesse gets beaten up several times throughout the movie and the make-up dirties up his face appropriately. The design accurately depicted the type of underbelly of America that the story exposes. The motel Jesse stays in is the type of seedy place you’d expect him to wind up in. It all combined to create a window into his world of hard luck and rough times.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
I thoroughly enjoyed the music. Several times throughout the movie, Jesse hops on his guitar and plays a song. It doesn’t happen enough to get annoying, just enough to showcase his musical chops and expose parts of his soul you might not get to know otherwise. My favorite song was I Can’t Complain (originally by Todd Snider) which Jesse sings for Carla in the motel room. The lyrics emphasize the journey both characters are on saying, “Little out of place, little out of tune, sorta lost in space.” The scene dragged on a bit too long but it was a sweet moment of the two happily enjoying a song and singing together. If you like folksy, singalong songs then the music in Hard Luck Love Song will be for you.
Hard Luck Love Song probably won’t blow you away. It tells a familiar story of a young man who can’t get his life together and consistently makes bad decisions. His relationship with a former lover is interesting even if it is, at times, predictable. Michael Dorman and Sophia Bush put in excellent performances that help the movie stand out. The story drags on a bit in the beginning and there’s some odd moments, namely Jesse’s interaction with a cop who reminded me of a toned-down Zach Galifinakis. The scenes with the cop swerved the movie from a neo-noir-feel to a buddy comedy tone which was a bit confusing. The culmination of the movie left a bit to be desired as Corsbie opted for a more light-hearted approach rather than putting the protagonist through a more realistic ending. But Hard Luck Love Song tells an interesting story extremely well and despite its shortcomings it’s an entirely honest portrayal of being lost in America and searching for ways to survive.