Starring Harry Belafonte, Joy Bryant, Nick Cannon, Emilio Estevez, Laurence Fishburne, Brian Geraghty, Heather Graham, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Hunt, Joshua Jackson, David Krumholtz, Ashton Kutcher, Shia LaBeouf, Lindsay Lohan, William H. Macy, Svetlana Metkina, Demi Moore, Freddy Rodriguez, Martin Sheen, Christian Slater, Sharon Stone, Jacob Vargas, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Elijah Wood.
Screenplay by Emilio Estevez.
Directed by Emilio Estevez.
Distributed by The Weinstein Company. 120 minutes. Rated R.
The sixties were a time when the people fought and protested and sought peace and love. Yet, the decade was defined by three acts of gun violence – the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, the Reverend Martin Luther King and Senator (and Presidential candidate) Robert F. Kennedy.
Dramatizing the shooting of Bobby Kennedy has long been a dream project for Emilio Estevez – the former 80s Brat Pack actor and member of the Sheen clan, who has periodically moonlighted as a writer/director over the years. Most of Estevez’ previous behind-the-camera work (the garbage collection comedy Men at Work, anyone?) would not lead you to expect he would have the gentle touch required to take on such a monumental American historical event. This fear of a mismatch is not quite realized, but not totally squashed by Bobby, either.
Estevez obviously called in a lot of markers in the making of this relatively low-budget, sincere but just slightly off-the-mark tribute to the man and the shattering of one of the last vestiges of sixties innocence. Many well-known old friends, family members and up-and-comers signed on for this labor of love, taking relatively small roles (undoubtedly at relatively small salaries) and sharing the spotlight equally with a cast of dozens of well-known faces.
Sort of like Spike Lee’s Summer of Sam, this film tells the story of a historic event through the eyes of people who were in the vicinity of what happened, but not really actually connected to it. Even though some of the eyewitnesses were distinctly effected, several even physically injured by the events that happened at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 6, 1968, you can’t help but think that the crux of the matter has been missed.
Instead, Bobby is about the people who were at the Ambassador that day. Some were there due to Kennedy’s running in the California primaries. Some worked there. Some were tourists or celebrating. Some were just living their lives when they got pulled unwillingly into history.
William H. Macy is the hotel manager, who is married to the hairdresser (Sharon Stone) but cheating with a receptionist (Heather Graham). Anthony Hopkins plays an aging former doorman who still sticks around the hotel even though he is retired, mostly playing chess with his old friend (Harry Belafonte). Freddy Rodriguez is the kitchen worker who is forced to work a double shift and give his Dodgers tickets to the chef (Laurence Fishburne) by the racist kitchen manager (Christian Slater.)
Martin Sheen and Helen Hunt are a depressed Senator and his uptight wife who are in for the speech. Lindsay Lohan and Elijah Wood play a young couple getting married not because they were in love, but so he can avoid Vietnam. Demi Moore is a drunken singer and Estevez plays her hen-pecked husband. Svetlana Metkina is a Czech reporter who has been promised a short interview with the candidate. Nick Cannon and Joshua Jackson are politicos who are getting a taste of life on the campaign trail. Brian Geraghty and Shia LaBeouf are campaign volunteers who take their first acid trip thanks to a hippie dealer (Ashton Kutcher).
Most of the stories and characters are well-done and interesting. Some not so well – Demi Moore’s alcoholic lounge singer comes immediately to mind.
However, several lengthy clips of the real Kennedy have a tendency to make the viewer want to get more information on the man and the real story of that day. The interviews and speeches show him to be more interesting and in tune with the world than any of the characters hanging around the Ambassador Hotel on that day in Estevez’ imagination. (4/07)
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: April 10, 2007.