'Bobby' is a misnomer
Kennedy barely figures in this mediocre fairy tale that bears his name.
By STEVE PERSALL
Published November 22, 2006
Sharon Stone, left, and actor William H. Macy appear in a scene from the new film "Bobby."
Emilio Estevez's nostalgic longing for an American Camelot results in Bobby, a misguided jumble of too much fiction, few facts and zero speculation. The film depicts the 1968 assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy as just another day when the music died.
Bobby isn't really about Kennedy at all, except for frequent newsreel footage and audio recordings of stirring speeches and fawning voters. The man doesn't appear in dramatized form until the final reel, arriving at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles to celebrate winning the California Democratic primary. Even then, he's merely a liberal lamb being led to slaughter by a mediocre filmmaker.
The previous 100 minutes are mostly a counterculture Grand Hotel, with fictional characters bickering, canoodling and fretting about Dodgers baseball tickets. A pair of Kennedy campaign workers take their first LSD trip, a husband's infidelity is revealed, and minority kitchen workers endure a bigoted boss. An alcoholic singer goes haywire while uneasy friends marry so the groom can dodge military duty in Vietnam.
These kinds of things happened in the 1960s. But what are the chances of them
all occurring in the same place on one tragic day? Even worse, Estevez sets up several of these phony characters as victims of Sirhan Sirhan's errant gunfire. Nothing in my Web search about the five real-life injured bystanders matches Estevez's description of who gets shot.
Fictional fate in the context of a cinematic history lesson isn't fair to their memories. By extension, it also diminishes the significance of Kennedy's death. Those forlorn expressions in a climactic montage seem caused by personal problems, not the murder of a national savior. Certainly that isn't what Estevez intended, but he'll have to live with it.
Bobby constantly shifts between subplots, seldom spending enough time fleshing out character and motivation. Juggling 22 roles requires the patient hand of Robert Altman or Paul Thomas Anderson, not Estevez's giddyap rhythm. It's tough to compliment many of the earnest performances since so little time is allotted to them.
Estevez surrounded himself with A-list actors sharing his sense of loss. You'd think one of those pros - especially his activist father, Martin Sheen - would take him aside and suggest a sharper focus. There's enough real-life material about conspiracy theories and Sirhan's Middle East connections to keep Oliver Stone busy for a couple of years. That's too much detail to tackle for Estevez, who doesn't even place Rosey Grier, George Plimpton or Rafer Johnson look-alikes at the crime scene to subdue the shooter.
Reviving Kennedy's message of hope and tolerance is Estevez's chief purpose. Making a documentary would be wiser, rather than a phony memorial padded with melodrama and low comedy. Bobby, we hardly get to know ye.
Steve Persall can be reached at 727 893-8365 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Director: Emilio Estevez
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Sharon Stone, Freddy Rodriguez, Harry Belafonte, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy, Christian Slater, Demi Moore, Elijah Wood, Laurence Fishburne, Nick Cannon, Ashton Kutcher, Shia LaBeouf, Heather Graham, Joshua Jackson, Lindsay Lohan, Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez
Screenplay: Emilio Estevez
Rating: R; profanity, drug abuse, sexual situations, violence
Running time: 120 min.
NOTE: Bobby will be released in theaters on Thursday.
[Last modified November 21, 2006, 09:57:03]
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