Review by Camden Ferrell
Hard Luck Love Song had its premiere at the 2020 Austin Film Festival. It is the feature directorial debut of writer/director Justin Corsbie. The movie is based on the song "Just Like Old Times" by Todd Snider. While the movie creates an enjoyable atmosphere, it suffers from an inconsistent tone and meandering pace.
This movie follows Jesse, a street-smart musician, floating from motel to motel, making money and bad decisions. This, combined with a chance encounter with an old love, leads Jesse to an existential crossroad. This is a simple premise about a troubadour and the people he meets along the way, and it had the potential to be quite endearing.
Corsbie’s script is charming albeit underwhelming. It has all the enjoyability of the intimate small-town dialogue, but it can often find itself lacking substance. To the movie’s credit, it does a pretty decent job of adapting the Snider song into a feature-length film. However, the script does seem to juggle a lot of tones, and this inconsistency can lead to some overarching problems throughout the film. This is also due to the fact that the movie tries to capture the spirit of multiple genres simultaneously, and the end result is interesting yet questionable.
The acting in the film isn’t impressive, but it’s fairly strong at times. Michael Dorman leads the film as Jesse. He does a good job of taking on this drifting character and the suavely streetwise nature he embodies. He also proves to be quite a talented musician throughout. He is supported by a cast including the likes of Sophia Bush and Dermot Mulroney. While they don’t do anything memorable, they do have some good chemistry with Dorman.
One of the film’s main virtues is how it can sporadically create immaculate vibes. There are a handful of well-executed scenes which seems to capture the true spirit of the source material. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t ever fully commit to maintaining that feeling, and it instead tries to become a hybrid of other genres. This can often impede the film’s momentum, and it prevents the best parts of the movie from truly shining.
Hard Luck Love Song is a rather underwhelming romantic drama with a handful of legitimately great moments. It has a hard time committing to a tone or pacing, and this hinders the movie’s ability to be emotionally resonant.
Hard Luck Love Song is in theaters October 15.