Movies based on popular songs often bring specifics to the table to better capitalize on the hooks. For Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billy Joe,” the 1976 movie adaptation took on a question the song doesn’t answer: Just what did Billy Joe and the narrator throw off the Tallahatchie Bridge? On the other hand, all the 1954 movie “White Christmas” required was its title Irving Berlin song, some more Irving Berlin songs and stars in Santa hats.
“Hard Luck Love Song” is based on the Todd Snider tune “Just Like Old Times.” Snider’s no superstar, but he is a troubadour with a solid cult following and a good way with story songs. “Old Times” is a straightforward, ironically poignant narrative in which a pool hustler phones an escort service from his motel and is soon greeted by his onetime high school sweetheart.
The movie, co-written and directed by Justin Corsbie and executive-produced by Snider, puts flesh — much of it movie-star-level attractive — on the song’s bones. Michael Dorman’s Jesse and Sophia Bush’s Carla are depicted partying with a vengeance, fueled by both alcohol and cocaine. Yet by the time they light out for a bar (mostly to put the plot into third gear), they both look as freshly scrubbed as a couple on the good side of a deodorant commercial.
The song’s actual story line winds down about an hour and 10 minutes into the movie. After which “Hard Luck Love Song” falls further apart. The twists are violent and silly and have little relation to the gritty realities of Snider’s world. Corsbie has filmmaking energy to spare but also makes many undergrad errors, including a clunky needle drop of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion song “Bell Bottoms,” which was executed definitively in the opening scene of Edgar Wright’s 2017 “Baby Driver.”
Hard Luck Love Song
Rated R for language and partying with a vengeance and cocaine. Running time: 1 hour 44 minutes. In theaters.