Following the death of his brother John, Robert Kennedy is forced to rise to the challenge of leading his country and carrying on his brother's vision of what America could be.

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Following the death of his brother John, Robert Kennedy is forced to rise to the challenge of leading his country and carrying on his brother's vision of what America could be.

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Dreamer. Rebel. Leader. Brother.

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Drama | History

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25 August 2002 (USA)  »

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Doesn't do enough
27 June 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

An interesting character study that could've done so much more, but ends up kind of having tunnel vision. Linus Roache's portrayal of RFK as the mourning brother becoming his own man is well done, but the script doesn't do enough justice to the levels of complexities surrounding his grief and ultimately his becoming a champion of the minorities and the downtrodden. Every issue seems the same repetitive cycle. First there is a call to action by RFK's advisers -- who are generally indistinguishable and more or less interchangeable, in that there is little character development on anyone's part outside of RFK himself. Then Bobby dithers on whether he should take a stand in a "damned if I do, damned if I don't" way. At some point Jack's ghostly presence chastises him. And after another scene of Bobby interacting with the people, he suddenly decides to make the decision that had always been suggested TO him. Wash, rinse, repeat. You get the feeling that Bobby doesn't so much come off as a man of strength of forming his own convictions, but one of a wild pet that has to be trained to think like a politician. Perhaps that was the point; I'm not sure.

That being said, if that were the film's only flaw, I'd have probably been okay with it. The problem is, it seems to gloss over everything in his life that isn't his political career. As mentioned before, there is little to no character development outside of RFK himself. His wife, Ethel, comes off as glib and shallow -- and no mention is made of the fact that she was probably pregnant through half the time period the film takes place; Bobby and Ethel Kennedy had 11 children (one was born after his death), and other than a shot of two or three of them from afar once or twice, little mention is made that they are even parents. (Not to mention that he became sort of a surrogate father to JFK's kids, as well.) Shouldn't they at least be seen around the house more, or on the campaign trail with him? The film would have also done well to focus more around events and actions, and less around time spent in RFK's own headspace. One of the other reviewers mentioned the 1964 Democratic Convention, where people stood and cheered for him for over 20 minutes before he could speak -- the cheering overwhelmingly, of course, being for his brother's memory and not for RFK himself. I agree. Instead of Bobby simply saying those things after nondescript events, show it. Or the fact that RFK so soon declared his candidacy for the Presidency after Eugene McCarthy won the New Hampshire primary (they only mention beforehand that he's running); the movie makes it seem like he arbitrarily came to the decision. Showing just how much he had to catch up, the time frame we're talking about, would've added a whole new level of complexity to his character -- how sometimes historical events WERE what forced him to make a decision, but he rose to the occasion above them.

Lastly, this film also suffers because people really have to know their history to understand what's going on. This is the first film I've ever seen where the uneducated viewer has to pay attention to the opening credits to get a sense of context, since the film opens with JFK's assassination. Names and events were thrown around as though everyone knew exactly what or who they were and why they were important; if one didn't know that RFK worked for Joseph McCarthy or prosecuted the Teamsters' Union, it might be hard to pick up through their rapid-fire conversation; the film sort of throws the viewers into this universe and forces them to work backward. A flashback or two, or an extra scene or two before JFK planned to go to Dallas illustrating better the kind of man Bobby was before November 22, 1963, and the kind of bond the brothers shared would've made the rest of the film more powerful. Instead, it's all idle chatter.

It wasn't a bad film, and the concept worked; it just could've executed it better in so many ways by slightly expanding its scope and glossing over what seems important.


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