Emilio Estevez has come a long way from his ‘butt in the moonlight walk’ in National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1 (which if you’ve a) not seen, or b) seen and hated, then you should a) watch it – it’s on Channel 5 about five times a day, or b) leave this web site immediately as it is clear you have no soul and I do not wish to write for you anymore).
Sorry, where was I? Oh yes – Emilio has come a long way. He’s not only written and directed Bobby, he’s also roped in a drillion stars to be in it. We’ve got, among others, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Hunt, Laurence Fishburne, Heather Graham, Joshua Jackson, Lindsey Lohan, William H. Macy, Demi Moore, (deep breath), Martin Sheen, Christian Slater, Sharon Stone, Elijah Wood. Basically I could write an entire review just listing the cast, but that isn’t overly interesting so I’ll stop.
With such an ensemble you run the risk of a “Me! Me! No, me!” effect, with a dozen egos battling for attention. And though everyone gets a turn to do a spot of acting, Emilio keeps them all in check so we get good performances rather than “anything you can act, I can act better” stand-offs. The first few minutes of the film are taken up with thoughts along the lines of ‘there’s whats-his-face, is that one Stone? There’s the hobbit, it’s Pacey from Dawson’s Creek!’ But after the novelty factor of star spotting subsides, what are you left with?
Well, the film focuses in on the inhabitants of the Ambassador Hotel on June 6th, 1968 – the day that Robert F. Kennedy was killed. We get to dip in and out of various lives, be they kitchen staff, switchboard girls, managers, hotel guests or people working on Kennedy’s election team. With so many characters it’s impossible to get an in-depth view into their lives, but ultimately they serve only to bring up some whoppingly relevant issues.
I know, I know. I always go on about issues and themes. But when it’s the point of a film you have to note them. Otherwise you’d look at this as a simple story about Bobby’s assassination and you’d say ‘it’s crap – you barely see him and what’s the point of everyone else?’ But let’s taking a running stab at what’s going on here. First off there’s the big one: this is 60’s America suffering from violence, racism, poverty, environmental issues and a war with obscure reasons causing the deaths of thousands. Um, familiar-much? Kennedy was cited as the solution to many of these problems, and his death packs an unpleasant punch when you look at the state of the world today.
But float away from the political and there are some other neat little ideas going on. Our celebrity-obsessed nation is mirrored perfectly. We’ve got a drunkard famous singer talking to her dowdy hairdresser about the short shelf-life of women. Who’s playing them? Demi Moore and Sharon Stone, who are both superb, and both in their forties. They could’ve written that piece themselves no doubt. There’s also Helen Hunt obsessing over her appearance, stressing that her shoes aren’t right and people are going to notice. I couldn’t help but think of the “circle of shame” in crappy celebrity magazines. By using such a well-known cast, these thoughts are given more resonance. Clever Emilio.
There are a few moments where Bobby wavers dangerously into Crash “oh look at me pointing out things really obvious I’m so clever and brilliant and lazy” territory, and perhaps there are one too many monologues or touching moments involving bloody sports (hurray my team’s winning, my entire life troubles are now solved as I smile gleefully like the simple sports-fan that I am). There’s also an unnecessary acid-trip with Ashton Kutcher that is almost embarrassingly trite.
But Bobby washes over all the flaws with its final act, building into an emotional and affecting finish, and a clever mix of footage from past and present. The risk with multiple-character plots is the loss of real empathy with the characters because there’re too many, but Bobby pulls it off by combining everything into a thought-provoking issue-riddled collage. I’m giving it one point for the nicely handled pace and clever use of stars, and another for matching past situations with present to create an affecting piece of film. So Bobby leaps in with CF2.