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'Hard Luck Love Song': Robin's movie review

The movie poster for “Hard Luck Love Song.” A man is leaning against a car. A woman is sitting on the hood of the car while wrapping her legs around the man. They are looking toward the camera with content expressions.

For this week’s Movie Minutes, KUNR entertainment reviewer Robin Holabird looks at a new feature film inspired by a single song.

If you ever attended one of Todd Snider’s concerts in the area, you probably chuckled when he sang “Just Like Old Times,” where a police officer checks in on a couple reuniting after many years. A story song with narration and dialogue as lyrics, the piece inspired writer-director Justin Corsbie to stretch the idea into a feature film called Hard Luck Love Song. “Stretch” proves the operating word, with a concept offering even less action than Ode to Billy Joe or Harper Valley PTA.

No criticism to Snider’s song, which he takes on the road to places like Lake Tahoe in 2021. But the song’s laid-back, ironic aspects prove difficult to transform into dynamic, cinematic elements. Still, writer-director Corsbie succeeds at creating the down-and-out lifestyle of a talented guy who repeatedly sets himself up for failure.

Playing a bar singer and guitar strummer named Jesse, Michael Dorman comes off as appropriately gifted and self-destructively willful. As in Snider’s song, he does better at hustling pool than landing gigs, allowing director Corsbie to set action in dive bars where bad dudes hang out. These include Dermot Mulroney and Eric Roberts, longtime and skillful professionals with the residue of “matinee idol” looks adding menace to their characters.

Overall, Corsbie effectively captures a world where nothing gets more elegant than dingy bars and grimy little motel rooms. Neither the characters nor the movie have any particular place to go, but they find some moments of entertainment while hanging around — more fun for them than outside viewers. Audiences, meanwhile, do better waiting for end credits and the chance to hear the clever Snider sing his version of “Just Like Old Times.”

The movie opened in theaters Oct. 15.

Robin Holabird is KUNR's entertainment reviewer, author and former film commissioner for the Nevada Film Office. You can browse her entire archive here.

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Robin Holabird reviews movies for KUNR, and her reviews have aired for more than 30 years. During that time, she has had a high profile in the Nevada film community.
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