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Hard Luck Love Song (A Movie Review)

Updated: Nov 11, 2021


Starring Michael Dorman, Sophia Bush, Dermot Mulroney, Eric Roberts, Brian Sacca, Melora Walters, RZA, Indrajit Sarkar, Amelia Morck, Lucy Boryer, Christian Calloway, Taylor Gray, Heath McGough, Gavin Lee, Max Arciniega, Randal Reeder, Zach Badasci, Miguel Pérez, Sammie Wayne, Abraham Luna, Hector A. Garcia, Biff Wiff and Todd Snider.

Screenplay by Justin Corsbie and Craig Ugoretz.

Directed by Justin Corsbie.

Distributed by Roadside Attractions. 104 minutes. Rated R.

It’s fairly rare these days that you find a movie that is based on a song. (I’m talking taking the storyline from the tale told in the lyrics of the tune, not just stealing a song title to use on a film, which still happens pretty often.) Back in the 1960s and 1970s they did it a decent amount – with things like Alice’s Restaurant, Ode to Billy Joe, Harper Valley PTA, Convoy, Take This Job and Shove It, The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia and The Gambler. (Is it a coincidence that most of these titles are based on country songs?)

It makes a certain amount of sense that this sub-genre has sort of faded away – even in the most descriptive story songs, it is difficult to glean nearly two hours’ worth of plot from a three- or four-minute song.

Hard Luck Love Song takes even more of a chance than most, because unlike all the big hits songs that inspired the above titles, it is based upon a fairly obscure song – “Just Like Old Times” by Todd Snider. (Personally, even as a music nerd, I am familiar with Snider, but have never heard of the song.)

In fact, they show Snider doing a live performance of “Just Like Old Times” over the end credits and I have to acknowledge that the film did a pretty good job of fitting in and filling out several little incidents that were described in the song.

Too bad they have to pad out these charming vignettes about two hard-luck cases reuniting after many years apart with so much extraneous outside stuff. However, otherwise the movie would probably only be a half-hour to 45 minutes long. Still, it is mostly when the plot sticks pretty close to the song that Hard Luck Love Song really works best.

When the movie strays, so does the audience’s interest.

The Hard Luck Love Song is about Jesse (Michael Dorman) returning home to find his old crush Carla (Sophia Bush). They had been in love since their school days, but he wanted to become a singer/songwriter. She went along with him, and they hit a wall of drugs and alcohol. There was some vague blow-up in New Orleans a few years before and she left him.

When he comes back home looking for her, he is still holding on to the music dream. He is low on money and holes up in a cheesy local motel, looking for jobs, drinking way too much and driving around in a beat-up old car. However, he also is making some money on the side as a pool hall hustler, riling up some local toughs (including Dermot Mulroney).

Now she is working at a strip club (as a bartender, she contends) and may also be hooking on the side. (He finds her picture in an ad in an old adult newspaper.)

He calls her up and they have a blow-out night of alcohol and cocaine and loud music and conversation and recriminations. And that’s before the police, a possible pimp and the pool hall toughs get involved.

However, again, it is the time spent between the two former lovers which is of the most interest here. In fact, Jesse’s dealing with Dermot Mulroney’s character and his pool hall toughs are an active distraction that really adds little to the story.

Hard Luck Love Song is trying to be a hard knock look at some of society’s outcasts, and sometimes it works on that level. It’s not a great movie, but it is often an involving one, and that counts for something, right?

Available now on Premium VOD, and On Digital & On Demand December 21 from Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate®.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2021 All rights reserved. Posted: November 9, 2021.


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