Hard Luck Love Song

Hard Luck Love Song

2021, R, 104 min. Directed by Justin Corsbie. Starring Michael Dorman, Sophia Bush, Dermot Mulroney, RZA.

REVIEWED By Jenny Nulf, Fri., Oct. 15, 2021

If there was ever a movie to feel like it was made by a local Austinite, Justin Corsbie’s Hard Luck Love Song would paint the picture. Based on the folky country song “Just Like Old Times” by Todd Snider, the film feels like a throwback to the heyday of Austin: eclectic acoustic guitars, dingy pool halls, dive bars with fountains of whiskey, neon signs, and lots and lot of late-night tacos.

Like all standard country tunes, Hard Luck Love Song begins with a kindhearted drifter down on his good fortune, Jesse (Dorman), moseying around a small town and hustling good ol’ boys out of cash over games of pool. Of course, he’s searching for a woman, Carla (Bush), one from his past who he still has a picture of tucked away in his wallet. The meat of Corsbie’s movie is the film’s second act, when Jesse and Carla finally reconnect and rekindle, laughing over mezcal, beers, and motel room coke. Bush and Dorman ooze gritty romance, hamming up their parts for the camera. Their body language complements each other, and while the dialogue is a tad too caught up in memories of wild times that happened offscreen, Bush and Dorman sell it for everything it’s worth.

But Hard Luck Love Song is a film that can be split into two: the “hard luck” and the “love song.” Where the second act’s love story feels organic and natural, the first act’s hard luck wanders too far down a winding road. Jesse’s hustling days are a beat too slow and meandering, an unfocused, overlong 30 minutes that overemphasize his struggle to make ends meet. Even his most successful hustle, beating Dermot Mulroney’s Rollo at pool for a considerable chunk of change, feels underplayed, with the consequences of his scheming hanging in the air until the last 15 minutes of the film to play out.

Against the tone of Snider’s original song, Hard Luck Love Song ends with violence. Mulroney and his crew of Santa Claus-looking heavies come to take back their money, and Carla’s ex-boyfriend (a shocking cameo by RZA) comes to take back his woman. While not applicable to Snider’s number, it feels rife with country music cliches, making a number of choices that are not entirely in Corsbie’s film’s favor. Hard Luck Love Song’s ultimate turn is a twist too far, and perhaps to a fault the film’s most memorable moment.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Hard Luck Love Song, Justin Corsbie, Michael Dorman, Sophia Bush, Dermot Mulroney, RZA

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