Hard Luck Love Song
If you have ever wanted to inhabit a Todd Snider song, step into a dark movie theater and sit down with your popcorn and take a ride into the life of Jesse (Michael Dorman), a perpetually down-on-his luck singer songwriter with a penchant for pool hustling, tall tales, and angsty moments of regret.
Hard Luck Love Song is set against a backdrop of seedy Austin liquor stores, cheap motels, and dive bars that could just as easily be another Snider song—“East Nashville Skyline, discount cigarettes, liquor and wine…” Director Justin Corsbie takes us into Jesse’s world in this gritty, noir-ish slow burn of a film.
If you spent Sundays during the pandemic tuning into Todd Snider’s weekly live streams as part of the First Agnostic Church of Hope and Wonder, you’ve probably been anticipating the release of Hard Luck Love Song, which tells the story of the Snider song “Just Like Old Times.”
Those of us who didn’t have Snider as a household name in their vocabulary pre-pandemic (like myself) have spent the past year and half catching up on the troubadour and have since listened to every song on every album he has ever made.
Snider is one of those rare artists—a true blue storyteller in every single one of his songs (and in between them too) and “Just Like Old Times,” is one of those songs where you can’t get the story out of your mind. From it’s opening line, “There’s a Coke machine glowing in the parking lot, they call that a room with a view,” the scene is set. It’s the kind of hard luck love song that if you didn’t experience something like it in your own life, you almost wished you did, it’s so damn poetic.
So the question is, how will something you have conjured a movie of in your head look on the big screen with someone else’s imagination? Hard Luck Love Song is that kind of movie. Not as morbid, fatalistic, dark or depressing as “Leaving Las Vegas,” it has moments when you hurt for Jesse and his regret over Carla, and times when you just shake your head at his fucked-up-ness.
Turns out, Jesse is every bad boyfriend you’ve ever had (ok, that I’ve ever had, and maybe just the last one). He’s the one you can’t quit even though you know he’s a hapless loser with an overindulgence problem and talent and charm to spare. He’s the kind of character you root for, especially when a nearly unrecognizable Mad Max-ish Dermot Mulroney, looking like he got run over by a lawnmower then chewed up and spit out kicks his ass. But also the kind of character you know is going to continually make wrong decisions.
You’ll meet more Snider characters—Trog and Bonehead, and a sexy Eric Roberts as the older, wiser, comfort-daddy waiting in the wings from “Play a Train Song.”
It’s the cast of Sons of Anarchy meets the spirit of a rom-com, with some Zach Galifianakis awkwardness (Brian Sacca) thrown in.
The soundtrack is a highlight, featuring several tracks by Snider friend and storyteller himself Hayes Carll, and a rip roaring bunch of great tunes from Gram Parsons, Townes Van Zandt, and K.K. Rider covering the old Rusty Weir song “Don’t it Make it You Wanna Dance,”—without the knockout scene, if you know the story.
One of the sweetest moments is a scene between Jesse and Carla (Sophia Bush) doing the Snider standard, “Can’t Complain.” Dorman plays a couple of other tunes as well, doing an honorable job as the singer songwriter, with just enough charm to make you wish you could hang out and have a beer with him—at least until the shit gets real.
Written and directed by: Justin Corsbie
Screenplay by: Justin Corsbie & Craig Ugoretz
Produced By: Allison R. Smith, Justin Corsbie, Douglas Matejka
Executive Producers: Peter J. Scalettar, Christian Monti, Ronna Scruggs, Shay Scruggs, Todd Snider, Burt Stein
Cast: Michael Dorman, Sophia Bush, Dermot Mulroney, RZA, Brian Sacca, Eric Roberts, Melora Walters, Max Arciniega, Randal Reeder, Taylor Gray, Geri Courtney-Austein, Toni Robison-May, Zac Badasci