REVIEW: Bobby [2006]

“The once and future king”

Emilio Estevez has thrust himself back into the limelight this year with his passion project about the day of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination. While doing maybe four or so acting roles in the past seven years, Estevez has honed his directorial skills with tv shows and I’m sure tweaked his script and signed a wishlist of actors. I’m sure it was the storyline parallel between RFK’s Vietnam messiah with the hope for one today in Iraq by the Hollywood Democrats that drew many to the material, but I don’t mind the liberal agenda on display here and found it easy to ignore. While the writing is poignant and real, the directing and cinematography simply breathtaking at times, it is the acting that really makes this film. Having the sheer cast size here could be a very daunting task for anyone let alone a guy who’s past directing work includes Men at Work. Not only does he check everyone’s egos at the door by filming a true ensemble where no one gets more screen time then the other, he also gets some of the best performances these actors have ever given. It’s hard to believe, but Bobby is perhaps the closest movie we have gotten to vintage Robert Altman, not directed by the man himself. The intricate storyline and weaving of no-name characters through short vignettes culminating into tragedy bares an uncanny resemblance to Altman’s acclaimed Nashville. Being that the directing great recently passed away, Estevez has unintentionally given him a wonderful tribute. Bobby is a masterpiece in many ways and if everyone’s passion projects could be this thought out and important we’d never have a shortage of great cinema.

The decision to interweave archival footage of the real Robert Kennedy is a superb choice. Unlike the boring documentary feel this tactic gave Good Night, and Good Luck, it really fleshes out the man at the forefront while we are shown the periphery of the story. If Estevez had cast someone to be facially seen and interactive with the cast it would have taken all the emotional resonance felt away. Letting Kennedy stand in for himself is the most effective utilization there is. Also, allowing the actors to play off the real man makes their performances that much more real. The speeches hold weight with these men and women who truly believe he is the savior for their country that has strayed. His words, along with the gorgeous soundtrack of period specific music, juxtaposed with the visuals hits home almost every time.

Everyone knows the tragedy of the situation, and this film does not look to shove it down our throats; however it does display a heart-breaking finale as everyone we have grown to know converge at the epicenter of the tragedy. Bobby is not as much a film about the man, but a telling of his impact on America as a collective. We are treated to a kitchen staff of Mexican immigrants trying to gain respect; a black political staff supporter who is desperately trying to get ballots into the inner-city to help put his candidate in office as he is the hope for the future after the slaying of Martin Luther King, Jr.; a retired hotel doorman unable to leave the place he has resided working for so long; a hotel manager trying to make everything perfect with his employees and for the fiasco he knows will soon be spilling through his doors while dealing with his wife, a mistress, and a newly disgruntled kitchen head just fired; a washed-up lounge singer drinking her life away in front of her loving yet cowardly husband and the hotel stylist; a young soldier and woman about to get married so as to keep the groom away from the frontlines; and a couple boosters who decide to play hooky the day of the election to “have a personal relationship with God” and get stoned. This just describes a tiny particle of what is actually going on this fateful day. Every actor encompasses his/her role perfectly and with a real sense of everyman’s purpose. While not at all involved with the titular martyr personally, their stories are not to be dismissed as trifling or inconsequential. These are the people Kennedy was fighting for and their lives are the reason he was in the position he was to begin with. By showing the supporters, Estevez showed the man.

Rather than give a laundry list of actors, as each was great, I will try and single out the most memorable. For one, husband/wife team Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher both bring their best work here. Kutcher revels in the stoner/hippie role, whether not really having to act it for realism is debatable, he is good nonetheless. Moore, maybe likewise, plays the drunk and depressed ex-celebrity as though she went through it herself. Her old “brat pack” chum has given her a role here that she sinks her teeth into and really runs with. Credit Sharon Stone and Helen Hunt for playing roles their age and allowing it to show. Rather than use makeup and be glamorous, they show every wrinkle on their face proudly and give strong, truthful performances wearing their emotions on their sleeves. Freddy Rodriguez is phenomenal as the hotel busboy who’s fate has drawn him what first appears to be a bad hand, yet eventually helps him see what life is about and the way he should live it, with nice help from the wise beyond his years cook Laurence Fishburne. Shia LaBeouf, Brian Geraghty, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead shine in their story thread, as well as there being a strong performance from the great Anthony Hopkins in his. Special mention goes to Joshua Jackson who usually doesn’t standout to me in movies, (and a nice Mighty Ducks connection), and Lindsay Lohan who does do a nice job of portraying the conflicting emotions of her young bride. Also, give Nick Cannon more serious roles, because someone who has looked terrible in what looked like terrible comedies really does a great job in a tough role fighting for the people. And of course, there needs to be mention of the nice turn by Emilio who succeeds in the trifecta of writer, director, and actor on this brilliant little piece of cinema with a giant heart.

Bobby 10/10 | ★ ★ ★ ★

photography:
[1] Laurence Fishburne and Freddy Rodriquez star in Emilio Estevez’s BOBBY. Photo by: ©The Weinstein Company, 2006/Sam Emerson
[2] Sharon Stone as Miriam and Demi Moore as Virginia Fallon in Bobby

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  1. [...] Bobby, review: Multi-narrative at its best, intertwining stories without the usual contrived interconnecting. [...]



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