The story of the assassination of U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy who was shot in the early morning hours of June 5, 1968 in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, and 22 people in the hotel whose lives were never the same.
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Helena Bonham Carter
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Tuesday, June 4, 1968: the California presidential primary. As day breaks Robert F. Kennedy arrives at the Ambassador Hotel; he'll campaign, then speak to supporters at midnight. To capture the texture of the late 1960s, we see vignettes at the hotel: a couple marries so he can avoid Vietnam, kitchen staff discuss race and baseball, a man cheats on his wife, another is fired for racism, a retired hotel doorman plays chess in the lobby with an old friend, a campaign strategist's wife needs a pair of black shoes, two campaign staff trip on LSD, a lounge singer is on the downhill slide. Through it all, we see and hear RFK calling for a better society and a better nation. Written by
What is it about L.A and ensemble films? The Player, Short Cuts, Crash...Emilio Estevez makes a ham-fisted attempt to fashion a memoriam to the ill-fated brother of JFK using the multi-strand plot and character technique associated with Robert Altman. But Estevez clearly lacks Altman's ability to maintain interest and build character through the use of trivialities, revelations and encounters as the film progresses.
The premise is the 'last day in the life of' Bobby Kennedy as he campaigns in the California Primary of 1968. Except, it's the goings on in the Ambassador Hotel, where he will be shot that evening, that feature rather than the character itself. It's a structural device, perhaps even influenced by the obvious and somewhat alienating reverence that Estevez has for Kennedy.
Excerpts of speeches and public reactions to his visit are inter-cut into the movie, that almost portray him as this Ghandi-like presence, on the cusp of commencing a national transformation that will not only end the war in Vietnam but apparently bring an end to 'hatred and violence' and a new sense of community. What is overlaid across the film with the intent of being inspirational, often comes across as simplistic. Estevez simply does not have a sufficiently detached critical sense to connect to more sceptical viewers. L.A liberals and ageing hippies will of course by weeping into their popcorn buckets.
However, there are a couple of nice turns, which you inevitably get in a film with such a cast. Mentionably, Sharon Stone, whose jaded beautician provides a relatable, pathetic character amongst a range of cyphers who are basically inserted to represent the body politic - old and young, black, white and Hispanic, druggie and idealist.
The final portion is compelling and well shot but the rest of the movie, despite it's attempt to portray America poised on a knifedge, as Kennedy would have it, lacks zest.
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