Cast: Harry Belafonte, Emilio Estevez, Laurence Fishburne, Brian Geraghty, Heather Graham, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Hunt, Nick Cannon, Joshua Jackson, Ashton Kutcher, Shia LaBeouf, Lindsay Lohan, William H. Macy, Demi Moore, Freddy RodrÃguez, Martin Sheen, Christian Slater, Sharon Stone, Elijah Wood, Spencer Garrett
Director: Emilio Estevez
Screenplay: Emilio Estevez
Running Time: 117 minutes
It's the day of Senator Robert Kennedy's visit to the Ambassador Hotel in LA and the day of his untimely death. 'Bobby' presents a snapshot of some of the hotel's guests and employees throughout the day as they deal with their own personal traumas, the political climate and the tragedy that ultimately overtakes Kennedy.
There's a moment in 'Bobby' that is so misconceived, so sentimental and outrageously false, that I actually put my hand over my face, as though to block it out, as though to hold it back somehow. Luckily the moment passed soon enough and the film continued on its entertaining way… Let's just say Laurence Fishburne deserves a medal for giving some truly awful dialogue a red-hot go and I don't ever want to see Freddy Rodriguez be so cute again. Most of the time the actors, to their credit, just about pull it off. Sharon Stone is particularly good as Miriam, a brave, unhappy beautician, and when she comes head to head with Demi Moore, playing a hopelessly alcoholic diva, it's one of the film's standout scenes.
It's not that all the dialogue is bad, far from it, but the script is painfully transparent in places. We know what each character is there to represent, making behaviour sometimes perfunctory and giving us few opportunities to connect to a deeper level. It's easy to admire what Estevez is attempting with this homage to 'Grand Hotel', this kind of complex storytelling can be a sublime cinematic experience, but in this case less would have been more. Like a high school essayist Estevez seems determined to be balanced and thorough. What were the 1960s all about? What were the social forces at work (politically aware or not, black or white, young or old, hip or square, and so on)? Screw balance. Just give us the good stuff and make it count.
There's no doubt Robert Kennedy was a significant figure in American politics and his importance to the characters in this film is both touching and thought-provoking. A young black campaign worker (Nick Cannon) describes him as the 'only hope' in the wake of Martin Luther King Jr's assassination, and is inconsolable when Kennedy is shot. But how do all these characters' stories actually relate to the demise of the would-be president? A hotel manager (William H. Macy) experiencing a marital crisis of his own making? Campaign volunteers (Brian Geraghty and Spencer Garrett) tripping on LSD when they should be hustling for votes? A young couple (Elijah Wood and Lindsay Lohan) getting hitched so he can avoid the draft? The old stalwart (Anthony Hopkins) reluctant to say goodbye to the hotel he loves? The fact is the pieces just don't come together. Sure, they're all people having a hard time and wanting to believe in something better; they're all at the same hotel, all affected by Kennedy's fate. But it's not enough. Some of the best moments of the film are provided by Kennedy himself, speaking from beyond the grave in archival footage. We see him touring America; talking to people, putting himself on the line in a very real way, being idealistic, grandiose and noble all at once. 'Bobby' is a film in search of a centre, and rather overlooking the obvious.
Rating : **1/2