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.
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
If you're sitting in the back row of a theater, hiding your tears as the credits roll for a movie, you know it delivered the emotional effect it was aiming for. I was lucky enough to catch "Bobby" at the Toronto Film Festival -- its North American premier -- and what I got was an incredibly beautiful story, cinematically gripping to say the least.
Like in all great ensemble movies, "Bobby" offers a stellar cast, none of whom disappoint. From the neurotic and self-conscious character of Samantha (played by Helen Hunt) to the outspoken, confident Edward Robinson (Laurence Fishburne), there is a vast mixture of personalities that work to provide a complex interwoven plot line. But the most notable performance (and the most surprising) is that of Virginia Fallon. Brillianty portrayed by Demi Moore, Virginia is a foul-mouthed, insecure alcoholic who sways around on screen in delicate form, both heartbreaking and beautiful to watch.
Director-writer Emilio Estevez put his heart into this project. The direction is without a doubt highly impressive. The subtle colorful hues reflect the emotional grip of each scene, and extenuate a modern feel to the film. He puts us head-first in the crowd that witnessed the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, on what would seem to be one of the most heartbreaking moments in American history.
But what really stands out in this movie is not the screenplay, nor directing, nor acting. The emotional intensity is brilliantly brought out through the use of sound. An actual audio footage of RFK is heard in the background as the tense score sways by over the muted dialogue. And what works for this type of film-making is the amount of anticipation it builds up, and even after pivotal scenes, the impact it leaves on the audience.
There is a key scene in the movie in which all the characters prepare to greet RFK when the energy of the entire screen seemingly drips with positivity towards the American society. It's as though we forget the fatal tragedy and give into the thought of this story having a happy ending. We are reminded of classic ensemble films such as "Short Cuts", "Magnolia" and "Crash" and immediately juxtapose that feeling.
Though I do fear that politically this movie may not hit home for a lot of the critics once it hits a wide release, it is definitely going to leave a lasting impression on the majority who sees it. It's a movie that presents a magnificent cast, superb directing, and flawless scriptwriting. An undoubtedly obvious ingredient for the Awards season.
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