E. A Solinas | MD USA | 02/23/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Robert F. Kennedy was adored by the masses when he won the primary for the Democratic party, on his way to becoming the president. Then, like his presidential brother, he was gunned down in public. (That was WAY before I was born, so much of what I know comes from books)
Emilio Estevez doesn't exactly focus on that in "Bobby." Instead, he creates an elaborate "Grand Hotel"-style plot, focusing on the people who surrounded Kennedy on the last day of his life. The movie is a little scattered throughout the first parts, but Estevez yanks it together in time for the inevitable, tragic denouement.
The entire movie takes place on one day: June 4, 1968. The place: Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel. And there's as much drama out of the campaign as in it: For example, the manager (William H. Macy) is cheating on his smart beautician wife (Sharon Stone) with the switchboard girl (Heather Graham), but takes some time out to fire a racist supervisor (Christian Slater) because the guy won't let the black and Latin employees vote.
The doorman (Anthony Hopkins) and his pal (Harry Belafonte) play chess and talk. A lounge singer (Demi Moore) is struggling with alcoholism, a young girl (Lindsay Lohan) is marrying a guy she doesn't love (Elijah Wood) to keep him from going to Vietnam, and campaign workers drop acid. Their stories are only loosely intwertwined -- until Sirhan Sirhan arrives.
Estevez has created a movie that Tries To Have It All. It tackles racism, war, love, voting, women's rights, and the adored icons of an era. It also stars just about every kind of actor: veterans, Bratpackers, ex-sexpots, MTV stars, party girls and accomplished young actors.
In fact, "Bobby" spills over with plot and characters, and for the first two thirds, it seems that there is almost too much of EVERYTHING. But Estevez captures the you-are-there ambience, with crisp suits and longer dresses, neat hair, period music and the occasional baseball reference. For a day, you ARE in Los Angeles in 1968.
And he has a knack for creating a sense of foreboding and sadness, which hangs independently of the characters. Yet in some scenes where Kennedy is supposed to be speaking, the shining eagerness that you see in the audience's faces is enough to bowl you over. It captures the hope that was present during that era, and afterwards died quickly, as hope usually does.
The enormous cast makes it hard to single out one, but there are several good ones: Laurence Fishborne and Freddy Rodriguez as cooks who discuss the racism they struggle with, Macy as the manager who struggles to regain his lost youth by an affair, Stone as his faded beauty of a wife, and Wood's bittersweet, ironic portrayal of the young groom.
Kennedy himself is a nebulous figure -- most of what we see are archival clips, which show the young candidate's charisma and power. Although "Bobby's" take on him is rather naive, it does leave you wondering how he might have changed the US, had he lived.
"Bobby" is high on ambition, and Estevez manages to create a truly poignant, thought-provoking film. It has its flaws, but it also captures a shocking moment in American history."
Another Dark Day in 1968
Jeffrey T. Munson | Dixon, IL | 04/10/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The year of 1968 will forever be remembered in American history as one of the darkest on record. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot, the Vietnam War was escalating, drug abuse was on a rampage, and, as told in this excellent film by Emilio Estevez, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated.
The film centers on one day; June 4, 1968, the day of the California Presidential Primary. The site of the film is the Ambassador Hotel. Bobby Kennedy, who said he would drop out of the race if he lost the primary, was scheduled to appear at the hotel later that evening. During the course of the day, several events involving several different people unfold as the anticipated time of Kennedy's arrival draws near.
Paul (William H. Macy), the hotel manager is married to Miriam (Sharon Stone), the hotel hairstylist, but he's having an affair with Angela (Heather Graham), a hotel switchboard operator. Paul also fires Timmons (Christian Slater), the kitchen manager, because of his refusal to give his Hispanic and Black employees time off to vote. Jose, a bus boy, has found out that he has to work a double shift in the kitchen, so he'll be unable to attend the Dodgers game which he bought tickets for. Since he can't attend, he gives the tickets to head chef Edward Robinson (Laurence Fishburne).
David (Elijah Wood) and Diane (Lindsay Lohan) are scheduled to be married at the hotel. Diane has agreed to marry William so he won't have to go to Vietnam. She will get $135 per month until William is safely serving in Germany. After that, the marriage can be annulled. But, as the movie goes on, Diane genuinely falls in love with William. John Casey (Anthony Hopkins) and Nelson (Harry Belafonte) are two older gentlemen who enjoy spending their days playng chess at the hotel. John, a former hotel doorman, has claimed to have seen many prominent people at the hotel, including JFK, Truman, and FDR. Virginia Fallon (Demi Moore) and her husband Tim Fallon (Emilio Estevez) are staying at the hotel. Virginia is a lounge singer who is battling alcoholism. June 4 is to be her last night of performing at the Ambassador, and she's supposed to introduce Robert F. Kennedy. Dwayne (Nick Cannon) is an assistant working on the Kennedy campaign.
As the day unfolds, these lives will forever be changed as Robert Kennedy makes his appearance at the hotel. Another uninvited guest arrived at the hotel immediately before Kennedy. His name: Sirhan Sirhan (David Kobyantsev) That evening, as the guests are gathered in the main hotel ballroom, Kennedy is whisked away through the kitchen after giving his California victory speech, but, hiding among the well-wishers is Sirhan, who fired several shots at Kennedy. Several in the crowd were struck, including William and Timmons, but Kennedy was mortally wounded. He died at Good Samaritan hospital on June 6, 1968.
Director Emilio Estevez has done a magnificent job in describing the events which took place at the Ambassador hotel. The all-star cast of actors assembled by Estevez did excellent jobs in their roles, and the viewer can almost feel the tension build as Sirhan Sirhan walked through the front door.
I give this movie my highest recommendation. I'm a big fan of historical movies, and this movie is one of the best I've seen in quite a while. This movie captures the essence of the year 1968; the day of June 4th began with tremendous hope for the country, yet it ended in tragedy, and unfortunately, a brilliant young man had to pay the ultimate price.
It's Heart was in the Right Place; it's Head? Well...
Martin P. McCarthy | North Chili, New York | 12/25/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Ostensibly, "Bobby" is supposed to be about the assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel in 1968. In telling that story, "Bobby" also tells the "stories" of 22 people who are all at the hotel for different purposes. "Bobby's" Robert Kennedy is portrayed by archived television footage and by a "body double" for some of the action at the Ambassador Hotel. The other 22 people are played by an ensemble cast including Emilio Estevez, who also directed the movie.
To call the other 22 people "characters" would be misleading. For one, they are fictional. In addition, they are not developed as characters but serve more as archetypes - for example, Christian Slater plays the racist archetype, Elijah Wood plays the young man conscripted to go to Vietnam archetype, Ashton Kutcher (of Dude, Where's My Car? fame) plays the the counter-cultural druggie type, Nick Cannon plays the simmering black rage archetype, etc. etc.
The problem with the movie becomes twofold - with such a large and unwieldy cast of archetypes, "Bobby" pushes Bobby Kennedy to the function of "backdrop" instead of the other way around. The second is, the viewer cannot engage and cannot care for an archetype.
This problems builds up to the climax of the movie when Bobby Kennedy is shot in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel. Throughout the buildup to the climax, the film cuts at various points from Bobby Kennedy archive footage, to its archetypes, to its Bobby Kennedy body double. When Bobby Kennedy is ultimately shot, Estevez goes overboard with quick cuts between archive footage and body double.
Here, "Bobby" commits an unpardonable sin. On June 5, 1968 when Senator Robert Kennedy was shot in the kitchen at the Ambassador Hotel, 5 other people were wounded - William Weisel of ABC News; Paul Schrade of the United Auto Workers; Democratic Party activist Elizabeth Evans; Continental News Service reporter Ira Goldstein; and Kennedy campaign volunteer Irwin Stroll. In "Bobby" 5 of the fictional archetypes are killed/wounded - the two archetypes who shirked their responsibilities to campaign for Robert Kennedy and, instead, dropped acid with the Ashton Kutcher archetype; the racist archetype played by Christian Slater; the unliberated woman archetype played by Helen Hunt; and, most telling, the conscripted young man archetype played by Elijah Wood. While in "real life" all five of the people wounded with Bobby Kennedy survived, in "Bobby," it is implied that the conscripted young man archetype dies and, it is VERY hard to miss the implication that because Sirhan Sirhan shot and killed Robert Kennedy, young men would be killed in Vietnam.
I call the event unpardonable because of the hubris involved in deleting REAL LIFE people in favor of these archetypes. How would you feel if you were William Wiesel watching this movie and instead of seeing yourself (or even some anonymous person) wounded in the kitchen, you see the racist archetype? If the assassination of Bobby Kennedy was such an important event, why trivialize it by replacing the real humans wounded and suffering with fake archetypes? This is "dramatic license" gone haywire.
In making Bobby, it is clear that the intentions of Emilio Estevez were good. His head, on the other hand, was some place else."