Eerily released almost 43 years to the day after John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Bobby is about the people present at the Ambassador hotel at the time of the assassination of JFK’s younger brother, Robert F. Kennedy.
The film tells somewhat interconnected stories of roughly 20 people who were at RFK campaign headquarters on the day of the California primary, including an aging singer (Demi Moore), two elderly doormen (Anthony Hopkins and Harry Belafonte) who have seen literally everything, a young couple trying to stay out of the war (Elijah Wood and Lindsay Lohan), and various hotel workers dealing with daily stresses compounded by the political event (William H. Macy, Christian Slater and Freddy Rodriguez).
To tell you all the stars who were in this movie would be to take up all the space that’s afforded to me. There’s so many, it’s easier to tell you who gave the best performances. Moore was engaging, Rodriguez was heartbreaking, Hopkins was amusing and Shia LaBeouf was just great as the young campaign worker worried about going to war. And the acid trip scenes were just amusing. In a movie littered with acting giants and stalwarts, the two standouts were a couple of relatively unknown kids in LaBeouf and Rodriguez. I see great things for both of them in the years to come.
One thing that I never thought I’d say, in all my years as a film fan and then critic, is could an Oscar nomination be on the horizon for Bobby director Emilio Estevez? This is Coach Bombay (The Mighty Ducks) having written and directed one of the best films of the year. It’s still taking me some time to wrap my head around that. But he did a fantastic job. He faltered with the pacing. It was scattered, and trying to corral the stories of 22 major characters is a lofty endeavor. I commend him for trying, but it was ultimately too much and got out of control, he was barely able to bring it back in for the closing.
Leaving that looseness aside, where the film succeeds, where Estevez succeeds, is in the presentation the film. He presents it in such a manner that really captures the spirit of the era, of Bobby Kennedy. He and his exquisitely talented cast put us back in an era of hope, an era of faith in our political leaders. RFK had come along at the right point in history. His brother was assassinated just five years prior, Martin Luther King Jr. just three months prior and he was seen as the hope of the nation by his supporters.
The tone of the country was mixed at that time. There was distrust going on. New Orleans District Attorney William Garrison was just starting his investigations into the JFK assassination. Dr. King and Malcolm X were dead, the country was in the midst of the Vietnam War. It was a nation of turmoil. And RFK was the hope. If anyone could have made the nation great, it was him.
It seems to be perfect timing on Estevez’s part to release this at this time in history. There are plenty of parallels between the time period of the movie and now. Country in turmoil, in the middle of a popular war, and there is possibly a candidate out there that could be considered the hope of the nation. A lot of people are looking at Barack Obama as a new kind of politician, to bring about change, and that he could be the next president.
In that capacity, capturing the late 60’s and relating it to present day, Bobby succeeds. That accomplishment alone overshadows the organizational pitfalls.