Everything and everyone has gone to seed in A Love Song for Bobby Long, Shainee Gabel’s drama about betrayal, redemption, and the ghosts that continue to haunt a trio of down-on-their-luck Southerners. After learning of her estranged mother’s death, Pursy Will (Scarlett Johansson) returns to Louisiana to take up residence in the house she’s inherited from mom, only to find it already inhabited by a crotchety old souse and former English professor named Bobby Long (John Travolta) and his apprentice Lawson Pines (Gabriel Macht). The three headstrong misfits caw and cackle through Nawlins’ scorching summer and frigid winter while attempting to come to grips with their traumatic pasts, and Gabel’s script (based on Ronald Everett’s book) slowly unfolds like an inviting novel. The story’s surprises ultimately turn out to be as predictably hokey as one feared, while moronic, metaphor-laden narration regularly interferes with the film’s swampy New Orleans atmosphere. But in a film filled with potentially showy roles, A Love Song for Bobby Long’s trio of lead performances are surprisingly believable, and in his finest work in at least a decade, John Travolta goes to work chomping on the picturesque scenery as the titular Long, a larger-than-life figure convinced that atonement is achieved only through self-destruction.