Hard Luck Love Song is billed as a gritty music-tinged romance, but it is simply more of a straightforward drama that I had been expecting. I have to admit upfront, I have a strong disdain for country music. If country comes on while listening to the radio, I quickly change the station. That said, I clearly do not think I was the right audience for this film. Where I had envisioned more love and intimacy, writer/director Justin Corsbie takes a laidback cut-and-dry approach. I think he was primarily interested in the complicated character of Jesse (played by Michael Dorman), who frankly was a boring choice for the lead. Envisioning an entirely different kind of movie, led by Sophia Bush’s Carla, makes what the actual narrative feel all the more underwhelming.
Driving down the road on his way to stay at another cheap motel to play a gig, addict Jesse quickly falls into old habits. The opening is punctuated by perhaps one of the most on-the-nose song choices I have heard in quite some time. It is a song all about driving and “calling out the exit signs,” and it immediately made me roll my eyes. Once settled into a room at the Tumble Inn, Jesse plays pool at a local bar, shops around for a good drug supplier, and practices guitar. In a moment of weakness, Jesse calls a number listed under the following tantalizing descriptor: “I’ll do anything but break dance for ya darlin’.” His old flame Carla happens to be on the other line, and he calls her crying to share his room number in the hopes they can reconcile. The remainder of the film is a series of ups and downs as the duo attempt to party together, redefine their relationship, and carefully assess their future despite some major roadblocks.
Hard Luck Love Song is far too slowly paced for a film also listed under the “thriller” genre umbrella. Nearly an hour deep, and virtually nothing of consequence was initiated. I wish the audience was offered more of a storyline about Carla’s captivating journey as, in essence, a prostitute, rather than wasting precious minutes on Jesse’s day-to-day mundane life. He is just an absolute mess and entirely unlikable. When accosted by an officer and asked for ID, he pulls out an outdated Blockbuster gift card. Jesse and Carla get in quite a few digs at each other, where he bitches about Carla selling her body, and she complains that Jesse is a “karaoke cowboy” who is still nothing more than an “addict junkie mess.” A picture perfect love story, eh?
Stolen money randomly becomes relevant in the last fifteen minutes, well after Hard Luck Love Song already establishes itself as a toxic-couple-arguing drama the likes of which Blue Valentine would sneer at. The film shifts gears into an entirely different genre with no warning whatsoever. No quote more epitomizes my thoughts on the film overall than this title-defining life advice: “Hard luck is like stepping in dog shit.” It may be a metaphorical comparison meant to be silly and endearing, but the inherent cheesiness of the line is evocative of misunderstood tones and a pretentious aura in execution that permeates from every second of Hard Luck Love Song.
Hard Luck Love Song sings the wrong tune when it debuts October 15th, 2021, exclusively in theaters.