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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
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.
"Bobby" which tells the story of the assassination of Robert Kennedy,
the little brother of the late and also assassinated President John F.
Kennedy, and what was going on 16 hours before it happened. We are
thrown back and forth between 22 extraordinary characters and stories.
Emilio Estevez writes, directs, and co-stars; he has truly elevated his
level of direction and writing. This is coming from the same man who
brought us hit and miss films like "Men at Work" and "The War at Home."
He parallels us through a journey of injustice, racism, prejudice,
adultery, and more. This film much like "Crash" with its unsubtle
undertones of encroachment could be the multi-character film that has
the "Good Night, and Good Luck feel that speaks assertively to America.
This film leads an all-star cast of some A and B-list actors. William H. Macy plays the manager of the famous Ambassador Hotel (which the Oscars were held at a few times) and Sharon Stone plays his wife and hairdresser of the hotel. Heather Graham plays one of switchboard operators whom Macy is having an affair with. Demi Moore plays Virginia Fallon, the alcoholic lounge singer who is set to introduce the doomed candidate of the presidency. Estevez portrays Moore's husband and manager being tormented emotionally by his wife's addiction. Lindsay Lohan, who has a step now to bring herself into more serious roles, depicts Diane, a young bride to be, who is marrying her boyfriend's brother to keep him from going to Vietnam. Elijah Wood plays the future and very grateful husband. Freddy Rodriguez known for his role in "Six Feet Under" and Jacob Vargas known for his supporting roles in "Traffic" and "Jarhead," play Mexican kitchen staff members who are working a double shift and are in search of equality. Laurence Fishburne is Edward Robinson, an older black kitchen staff employee who is teaching his fellow compatriots about offering more to life than anger. Joshua Jackson and Nick Cannon are campaign managers for the infamous Bobby. Real life father of Emilio Estevez, Martin Sheen is Jack, a depressed older man who marries a younger woman portrayed brilliantly by Helen Hunt. Christian Slater is Timmons the very racist kitchen staff manager who is not subtle about his feelings towards minorities. And veterans Sir Anthony Hopkins and Harry Belafonte are John Casey, a veteran worker of the Ambassador and Nelson, an old friend reminiscing of the old days. And at the end we have a little Ashton Kutcher, Shia LaBeouf, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead.
The movie races against the clock to bring us into all these characters lives and show us about "Old America" and where we've come from. The film has it all, some comic relief coming from Kutcher, your strong political message, the dramatic elements, and the emotional punch that lays the icing on the already multi-layered cake. This is one of the most important films of the year and if justice is served this will be on many critics' top ten lists of the year. I can't explain too much about the film without giving away vital parts but it speaks to America. It shows a history of grave transgressions and how that may seem all behind us it is lucidly vigorous. The mention of Dr. King and his impact on people fighting for equal rights is mentioned quite of a bit and leaves in discernment. Bobby Kennedy was the light at the end of a lot of citizen's dark tunnel. People believed he was going to do some amazing things for us and we'll never know if he would have lived up to those expectations but I am now very informed of his life, legacy and how much he meant to so many individuals.
Emilio Estevez could very well be the Paul Haggis of the year with his excellent writing and direction of the film. I never would have thought he had it in him to pull off this passionate and affecting drama out of him. The performances are amazing and utterly mind blowing but to be honest, with 22 different characters as oppose to Crash's ten or twelve it's hard to pick a standout. If critics go crazy for the film, I'd place bets for Laurence Fishburne who has already received raves for his "Akeelah and the Bee", Helen Hunt's haunting and powerful performance very reminiscent of Julianne Moore's performance in "The Hours", and possibly Harry Belafonte as the veteran of the year to make it to the short list for the first time. With these bets my favorites differ; by far Freddy Rodriguez as Jose who brings a sense of humanity to his role which mirrors Michael Pena's Daniel in Crash went home with me post-experience. I wouldn't even be hesitant to say Christian Slater was great as a racist who also mirrors Matt Dillon's Oscar nominated performance. Sharon Stone also left a beautiful impact on me to make long forget about "Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction."
With all of these key components and sides of "The Constant Gardener" and "JFK," this is the film of the year. Undying gratitude can be expressed to cast and crew involved in such a passionate masterpiece of film-making. The technical aspects of the film are eye-catching. The recreation of the Ambassador Hotel by unknown Colin De Rouin is beautifully constructed and is alone worthy of viewing pleasure. The cinematography always keeps the smooth flow of the film moving along with excellent editing coming from Richard Chew, the Oscar winner of a little bold masterpiece called "Star Wars." Even the Mark Isham score definitely sampled from Thomas Newman adds to a melancholy yet invigorating memoir. A review such as this cannot begin to encapsulate the consciousness of "Bobby" it can only be a fishhook with enough thrust to get a viewer into a chair and enjoy respect, knowledge and background of one of the most notorious and resourceful men in the history of politics.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First, let me offer a personal note. I was at the Ambassador Hotel the
night Senator Robert F. Kennedy was shot, although I had to leave the
hotel to perform my own job as a wire service journalist before the
Senator came down to the ballroom, so I was not there after midnight
when the shooting took place. However, my wife at the time was there
and for one moment, was one of those standing over Kennedy's body. I
was back at the office working on the Kennedy victory story when word
came though of the shooting. It was devastating, even more so for me
because we learned very quickly that a woman was among those shot, but
there were no ids available and in the days before cell phones, I had
no way to reach my wife. It was hours before she was able to get to a
pay phone to call me and let me know she was alright.
That all made watching the last few minutes of this film very difficult for me, even though the incident took place nearly four decades ago.
The assassination segment is gut wrenching to say the least, as are the newsreel clips of Kennedy on the campaign trail.
Other positives of the film are the acting and overall direction from Emelio Estevez.
The problem for me with this film was, I could not get a real handle on what it was saying. About 90 percent of the movie gives us capsule glimpses into the lives of people either working or staying at the Ambassdor before the shooting.
We find out the hotel manager is having an affair with a switchboard operator, a bus boy has Dodger tickets he will not be able to use, two college age nerds drop acid for the first time, and a comely young lady is going to marry a boy to keep him from being sent to Vietnam. (I'm not sure that actually worked, as many married men I knew wound up getting sent to Nam in that era. And I met many others while I was in the army.) Okay, the idea was to show us, not just a cross section of 60s culture, but also a glimpse into the lives touched by the assassination. Trouble is, we got a lot of their back stories, but since the film ends with the shooting, we never get to see what impact this terrible night had on them, other than that some, but not all of them, are among the wounded.
Consequently, it is never clear to me what all these stories add up to. For instance, Anthony HOpkins and Harry Bellefonte play a couple of retired hotel doormen who are apparently allowed to spend their retirement years hanging out in the hotel lobby, playing chess. Cute, but irrelevant to the story, since they don't even talk about politics on this, California primary day.
Again, some of these people are apparently fictionalized versions of those wounded, but they all survive and what we never find out is, was this incident life changing for them. And if it was, is it any different for them than it is for any other crime victim? For me, the assassination was and I eventually dropped out and went to Europe for a while. I don't know what happens to the people here and since I got so much back story, I feel cheated. Did the hotel manager and his wife reconcile? Did the boy who got shot get sent to Nam anyway? Did the two college boys become hard core stoners? Did either of them score with the hot lunch counter waitress?
I think this script needed some major adjustments to make the film work for me.
This movie has the power to change the world, if people take a moment to think about it. The theater was packed, and all left silent, most very emotional. The message that Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King were giving is no longer being said by our current leaders, and that is a very sad thing. The work they were doing should not have fallen by the wayside when they were assassinated, but it seems that it has. The current message we are getting is quite the opposite. Massive kudos to Emilio Estevez for giving us this message again through his movie. The acting was amazing, the writing perfect, and the direction was incredible. What I took from this movie is that we should all take the time to really think about who we're putting in power and what they will do with that power. Take the time to vote. Without your vote as your voice, you have no power to give. As RFK said "Few will have the greatness to bend history; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events...Each time a man stands up for an ideal...he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
"Fear not the path of truth for the lack of people walking on it." June
6th, 1968 (From the last speech Bobby gave) At a time when through out
the world we seem to have lost our way and our belief in our political
leaders is perhaps at its lowest ebb
. we see a reminder of what we had
The sixties saw the assassination of John, Martin Malcolm and Bobby. As one of the actors says in the film "Bobby our last chance". We can only imagine what a different world we might have had had they lived.
When it premiered at the Venice Film Festival (http://www.labiennale.org/en/cinema/ ) it received a seven minute standing ovation. The film's tagline is He saw wrong and tried to right it. He saw suffering and tried to heal it. He saw war and tried to stop it.
There are some icons of that time and one is the election poster of Robert F Kennedy from 1968 (http://www.rfkmemorial.org/ ).
Bobby is written and directed surprisingly by Emilio Estevez and features an amazing cast of stars. It is a fictional account of the lives of several people affected by and during the final hours of Senator Robert F Kennedy's life on the 6th of June 1968 as he attempted to become the Democratic candidate for President of the US. The film includes Anthony Hopkins playing the former doorman at the hotel where Kennedy was killed; other stars include Elijah Wood, Demi Moore, Sharon Stone, Christian Slater, Heleb Hunt, Harry Belafonte and my favourite TV President, President Bartlet (Martin Sheen).
"Our gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worth while. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans." 1967 RFK For a generation it was Bobby who represented dashed hopes and dreams of a better world we might have had, which was cruelly taken away. At the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 4th 1968, he left the ballroom after having won the all important California and South Dakota Primaries. He went through a service area to greet supporters working in the hotel's kitchen. While moving through a crowded kitchen passageway, Sirhan B Sirhan a 24-year-old Palestinian, fired a .22 calibre revolver directly into the crowd surrounding Kennedy. Kennedy, who was shot in the head at close range and also six other people were wounded. Although wounded he remained conscious for about 20 minutes where his concern was about others he was heard to say "Is everybody all right?" He was taken to Central Receiving Hospital and then Good Samaritan Hospital for emergency brain surgery. I was at school at the time in Melbourne in Derbyshire and the school put a room aside for any children to watch the news throughout the day to see if he survived lessons were put aside. He died there at the age of 42 in the early morning hours.
With his death the darkness seemed to descend having lost Martin Luther King already that year.
"A revolution is coming--a revolution which will be peaceful if we are wise enough; compassionate if we care enough; successful if we are fortunate enough--But a revolution which is coming whether we will it or not. We can affect its character; we cannot alter its inevitability." 1966 RFK He had just completed three and half years as one of the Senators for New York. He had helped to start a successful redevelopment project in poverty stricken Bedford Stuyvsant in New York City bringing business back into areas of New York they had left years before.
He had an ability to speak to people across divides in US society of the time which were strong. He managed to pull together a coalition of poor -- black and whites, middle class he spoke forcefully in favour of what he called the "disaffected," the impoverished, and "the excluded,".
The film gives a wondrful feeling as if you are really still living that hope.
"Few will have the greatness to bend history; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation ... It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is thus shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest " RFK It is my hope that this film will help to inspire a new generation for public service.
I saw the movie "Bobby" as part of the Vienna International Film
Festival last week and thought it was an incredibly powerful film. The
movie focuses on around 20 people in and around the Ambassador Hotel
the day that Robert Kennedy was shot there. The large cast never seems
overwhelming. The characters are clear enough that we remember what
they were doing the last time we saw them, but we never feel like they
are merely one-dimensional. Emilio Estevez really hit the jackpot with
his cast - they all are 100% committed to their roles and the audience
simply gets lost in the era.
The cast is phenomenal - the standouts include Sharon Stone (who has a a chance at a Supporting Actress Oscar nomination if the Academy can overlook Basic Instinct 2), Nick Cannon as a young Black-American working on the campaign, and Freddy Rodriguez as a young Latino working in the kitchen. The later two, combined with Lindsey Lohan as a woman marrying to save a man's life, serve as the heart of the movie and bring a well-balanced view of many of the hot issues of the day.
The movie has an incredible, emotional climax that is enhanced by an actual speech of Bobby Kennedy. The audio and visual clips of Kennedy serve as snapshots into his life and the work he did during his short time in the public eye. You can read whatever you want to into the political agenda of the movie, but in the end this movie is a tribute to Robert F. Kennedy and his time.
It's easy to get caught up in the "too many characters" argument or that there are too many stories left unfinished or incomplete. IMO, it's important to remember this is a snapshot of just ONE day. How much are we expected to know about any of the characters in that time period? How much do you learn about the guy sitting next to you on the plane with whom you visit during a three hour flight? I admit that at first I was thinking, "Okay Emilio, where are you going with this and why do I care about all these people?" It seemed a little disjointed to me. But then I found myself going with it and appreciating the idea that we were getting a glimpse into the lives of a few of the people at the Ambassador hotel that day. I thought the performances by all were very strong, although I'll admit it was next to impossible to get beyond the all-star cast, simply because the plot isn't structured to bring you close enough to the characters to lose sight of who is playing the role. But again, in the end it didn't matter because the artistry of it all--the music, the camera shots, the inclusion of film and audio footage of Bobby Kennedy, the significance of these characters we've been following throughout... it just worked for me. It is also hard to ignore how much RFK's message resonates in our political climate today. As the credits rolled, at least half of the audience remained in their seats, from those sitting in stunned silence to others almost sobbing. Complete strangers were gathered outside the theater, talking about the movie or their own memories of Kennedy. It is clearly a labor of love for Emilio but I think he did a fabulous job.
"Bobby" brings you back (if you were ever there) to the 60s, when those who protested the Vietnam War and racial injustice were motivated from their heart and torn by anger and grief in their efforts to change both. Yes the ensemble characters in the film are quite ordinary and their (sometimes) tawdry or pathetic shortcomings all too obvious and easy to sneer at, yet who could not recognize themselves in one or more of these vignettes. Robert Kennedy's assassination was felt by those who cared about him or his mission to the presidency as a deep wound to our own vision of a more compassionate and just America. The pettiness and simplicity of the characters in this movie are expertly directed to reveal our own pettiness and let us identify with them, if not consciously, then unconsciously. Remember, the top Hollywood actors in this movie were paid basic union scale (virtually free for them) so this was made for love. Our own little soap operas are put into such deep perspective that when he is killed, so were we, or at least the film lets you feel that. You find yourself loving this man, Robert Kennedy, for what he stood for and what he said during his candidacy, which is brilliantly threaded throughout the movie in his own words. The humanity you discover in him is of course your own humanity and isn't it refreshing to cry for yourself and your lost dreams as you cry for his.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Another movie that was even more of a disappointment than "The
Fountain" is the magnum opus from Emilio Estevez (better known as
Martin Sheen's son and Charlie Sheen's less talented brother) about the
life and times of the late New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
Well, actually, it's about 10 minutes in the life and times of Robert F. Kennedy; the rest of the movie's 112-minute running time is filled with boring, unnecessary fictional vignettes about idiots working in Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel, where the senator was assassinated in 1968.
Why on Earth would someone name a film "Bobby," proposing it to be a homage to the brother of a recently assassinated president coming into his own, and then stuff it with the most banal and uninteresting stories? I have no idea, friends.
All of these tales take place on June 6, 1968, the day of the California primary, in which Kennedy is battling another anti-war dove, Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy, and LBJ's conservative vice-president, Hubert Humphrey.
This little description is about the only real history you will get from this mishmash of a film, which soon meanders off into a wildly-spinning series of unrelated concoctions; very loosely tied to the upcoming assassination. In fact, had it not been for several actual newsreels of Kennedy on the campaign trail, this picture would have had nothing whatsoever to do with his life (and death).
I only wish they would have just spliced these images together and we would have a film to remember. These small clips give more insight and revelation on what Robert Kennedy was and what the country lost than anything Estevez could have dreamed up. Don't believe me? Then take a look at some of the vignettes:
Anthony Hopkins (portraying another old American) is a longtime hotel employee who now plays chess with an addled Harry Belafonte; Estevez (wearing an ascot and carrying a poodle) is the effeminate husband of drunken singer Demi Moore; Heather Graham is a hotel switchboard operator having an affair with aging manager William H. Macy (the biggest work of fiction in the whole movie); Macy, on the other hand fires kitchen manager Christian Slater for racism, but is chastised himself by beautician wife, Sharon Stone, for infidelity; long-winded cook, Laurence Fishburne, lectures everyone on the meaning of life; two Mormon missionary-types, Shia LeBeouf and Brian Geraghty, who work for the Kennedy campaign, buy LSD from Ashton Kutcher; Helen Hunt and Martin Sheen play a middle-aged couple who come to celebrate the primary; and Lindsey Lohan is a woman who marries Elijah "Frodo" Wood to keep him from going to Vietnam.
Who cares about any of this?!
The only compelling story was the one surrounding Mexican busboy, Juan Romero (Freddie Rodriguez) one of the few actual real people portrayed in this film, who ended up cradling the mortally-injured senator. Still, this particular part of the quilt is given as much time as the rest of the ridiculous, made-up stories. Yeah, I really care that Helen Hunt forgot to buy shoes or that Anthony Hopkins once met FDR or that a waitress from Ohio dropped acid once.
And speaking of that, the LSD freak-out scene was one of the most insipid and embarrassing pieces of trash ever slopped onto celluloid. It's something even "Mystery Scinece Theatre 3000" would have gladly passed on. I actually though I was hallucinating while watching it.
Finally, however, after almost two hours of nothing happening, even I was almost ready to take a few shots at some of these people.
In fact, when Sirhan Sirhan finally arrives at the hotel, most of the audience was relieved to see the only likable character who could end this colossal mess. Sirhan should have first gone after Estevez (who seems to direct this film with a circus mallet), though, and spared us from an intellectual and cinematic assassination we may never get over.
Bobby Kennedy was one of the most unique and compelling men of our generation. I can't say I would have agreed with all of his politics had he lived, but he deserved a much better honor than this ham-fisted, unfocused, passionless motion picture gives him.
BOBBY as written and directed (and starring) Emilio Estevez is not
simply a recreation of the fateful night June 6, 1968 when Bobby
Kennedy was shot, though that event is meticulously dissected as the
sun dawns on Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel on that day. This film is a
series of vignettes of the lives of many people (22 examples shine)
whose hope for a better future than that of a country undergoing
disintegration on many levels were shattered. It is about 'little
people', people with choices whose responses to the death of a hero is
Racism (Christian Slater vs Laurence Fishburne vs interaction with Freddy Rodríguez and Jacob Vargas); hippie/white collar drug abuse (Ashton Kutcher dealing LSD to Brian Geraghty and Shia LaBeouf, Demi Moore's alcoholism defeating her marriage to Emilio Estevez and career as a lounge singer); aging and the problems of 'useless old people' (Harry Belafonte and Anthony Hopkins); adultery (hotel manager William Macy married to beautician Sharon Stone yet having an affair with switchboard operator Heather Graham); marriages teetering on commercialism (Martin Sheen and Helen Hunt); young political aspirants basing futures on RFK (Joshua Jackson and Nick Cannon); and the extremes to which young men will go to avoid being sent to Vietnam (Elijah Wood and Lindsay Lohan) - these are the main characters we get to know as they prepare for the evening's party for RFK and then suffer the explosive effect of the shooting by Sirhan Sirhan (David Kobzantsev). The power of the film lies in the impact Bobby Kennedy had on all of these people who represent the rest of a nation.
Estevez wisely uses film footage from life to project the speech and presence of RFK: using an actor to depict him would have made the effect less sharp. But in the end, as it seems apparent from Estevez' script, the power comes from the messages in the voice-over of Kennedy's own speeches, words to offer hope and a chance for resolution of the many conflicts that threatened to destroy the US. Would that there were minds with such thoughts speaking today when a leader is so desperately needed! The film has flaws (it would be difficult for a two hour enactment of a well known yet partially fictionalized incident not to). But the message is pungent and clear: we MUST care for each other as a country and forgo the alienation that is so rampant. A very fine film for thought. Grady Harp
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