Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Bobby review

Note: This is derived from a print version of this review in the December 2006 edition of LareDOS in Laredo, Texas. LareDOS can be seen online at


“Bobby” could have been called “Hotel” with the various subplots developing in and around Los Angeles’ Ambassador Hotel the night Robert Kennedy was shot in 1968.
Actor, screenwriter and director Emilio Estevez let his movie highlight the essence of the ‘60s – breaking racial barriers and working together as one nation – but, it started too slow in its little stories of people in the hotel in their stories to grab all the audience it could have.
This movie is semi-documentary, using RFK news clips and others from marches, riots and Vietnam, but it also has a generation gap. The meanings and nuances of the cinematography, dialogue and Kennedy’s hope-raising presidential campaign speeches bring back that era for those who lived in 1968, but it could come off like ancient history overkill for kids and young adults.
Personal buttons touched by the ideals and experiences of that time -- which the movie hits on more than misses – give “Bobby” the chance to sit much higher with some viewers than others.
Anyone who recalls watching television that night of June 5, 1968 might feel moved by the movie’s well-planned end. Viewers remembering that night and those surprising televised instances of the wounded and bleeding Kennedy lying on the kitchen floor hold their breath as he smiles and ends the ballroom appearance saying, “Now it’s on to Chicago and let’s win there.”
Estevez’s “Bobby” goes right to the gut in the effective mix of RFK’s pointed speeches stoked with the ideals of that era over Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” as he and his entourage exit the ballroom after acknowledging the presidential primary victory. The pace through the kitchen is deliberately slow, allowing more emotional buildup as star-cast subplot characters assemble, finding their place at that instant when assassin Sirhan Sirhan shoots Kennedy and wounds several of the others whose lives took them within range of Sirhan’s pistol as shocked and angered RFK backers wrestled the shooter to the ground.
“Bobby” also comes off much like a 1970s disaster movie with its smattering of big stars in supporting roles, but moved from a seven habanero to nine habanero rating here in the end from this reviewer, who vividly recalls being up watching TV alone that night up the coast north of Los Angeles in California in 1968.
Anthony Hopkins, Demi Moore, Sharon Stone, Lindsay Lohan, Elijah Wood, William H. Macy, Helen Hunt, Christian Slater, Laurence Fishburne, Martin Sheen, Heather Graham, Harry Belafonte and Ashton Kutcher are the more familiar faces doting the subplots and some carry major roles in the dramatic kitchen shooting scene. Wood, Hunt and Slater are wounded as are campaign volunteers played by Shia LaBeouf and Brian Geraghty a few hours after recovering from an acid trip with Kutcher trying to play the pusher.
Kutcher didn’t bring much energy to this role, but his real-life wife Demi Moore did well as the boozy singer Virginia Fallon on the downside of her career. Fallon is married to Estevez, playing her edgy husband and frustrated manager Tim Fallon. He exits the movie, leaving her while coincidentally bumping into Sirhan at the front door.
Stone handled her role so well as the cuckolded beautician Miriam Ebbers married to hotel manager Paul Ebbers, played by Macy, that it was easy to forget that she is the former “Basic Instinct” star. Paul’s affair with switchboard operator Angela, played by Heather Graham, ends earlier on that fatal summer day, but Slater, playing fired kitchen manager Daryl complicates the matter by telling Miriam. Paul later slugs Daryl for doing that.
Hopkins, Hunt, Lohan, Sheen – Estevez’s father -- and Wood didn’t hurt themselves any in their supporting roles. Fishburne was effective as chef Edward Robinson, but his overly gracious acceptance of two free Dodger baseball game tickets from Jose Rojas, played very well by Freddy Rodriguez, might have been overbaked.
Jose, a low-paid kitchen helper, reluctantly, but of his own free will gave away his two tickets to the game in which Dodger pitching great Don Drysdale was to pitch a record sixth consecutive shutout that night. Kennedy acknowledged the feat in his final speech in the ballroom and it was Jose shaking RFK’s hand and looking at him with a visible heartfelt smile as the first bullets hit the senator. It was also Jose seen trying to keep Kennedy from bleeding to death in those chaotic flashes of TV footage from the kitchen floor.
Chef Edward had scribbled a note on the wall, tagging Jose as “The Once and Future King” after he was given the tickets. That graffiti was ironically splattered with blood in the assassination.
Estevez isn’t likely to win an Oscar for his first picture as writer and director, but he awarded the 1960s and its worthwhile ideals with a moment of deserved attention.


At 4:40 PM, Anonymous Candide said...

Keep up the good work.


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