Emilio Estevez's Bobby Remembers Him Admirably
by Alex Billington
November 22, 2006
Bobby is a film by Emilio Estevez that focuses on an amazing number of stories all set at the Ambassador Hotel the day Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. Not only is it incredibly important, as Kennedy's wisdom is timeless and has an especially poignant impact on today's politics, but it's one of the most powerful films of the year, even above Death of a President, Babel, or Flags of Our Fathers. Bobby is a stunning film that celebrates the life of Robert F. Kennedy while also involving the lives of 22 other people at the hotel.
Author's Note: Some early reviews of Bobby have criticized the acting and script, but that is all overshadowed by just how powerful the film is. I enjoyed the performances, I enjoyed the characters, and above all, I was immensely affected by what it portrayed in connection to Kennedy. It does have a few moments that aren't the greatest performances and where the lines aren't that great, but that doesn't mean that the film on a whole can't be looked at as something much more incredible. This achievement alone and listening (for some, again) to the speech Kennedy delivers at the end makes Bobby definitely worth seeing.
As Robert F. Kennedy finished traveling across the United States in June of 1968, 22 individuals' lives would change forever. Bobby tells the brief story in one day's time of these people from the General Manager of the Ambassador Hotel (William H. Macy) and his wife (Sharon Stone), to the chefs and kitchen staff (Laurence Fishburne, Freddy RodrÃguez), the resident singer Virginia Fallon (Demi Moore) who performs nightly and her husband (Emilio Estevez), the long-time doorman (Anthony Hopkins), Kennedy's campaign coordinator (Joshua Jackson) and troublemaking volunteers (Shia LaBeouf and Brian Geraghty), and even a foreign reporter (Svetlana Metkina) looking for an interview with Kennedy. Although Estevez has a tendency to focus on a few of the stories much less than others, each one is approached with the same amount of passion from both the actors and the filmmakers.
When you go to funerals and they say to remember someone's life for the happier moments and the people they touched - this film does just that. It is a true triumph in remembering Bobby Kennedy's life in such a heartwarming way with so many great characters. It captures well many personalities and trends of the day, including one touch on the "Youth of America on LSD." You remember someone's life for who he was and what he said, not how he died, and although Bobby is about his unfortunate assassination, it is remembering him through those moments and the lives he touched. Often interspersed with real footage of Bobby's interviews and his travels across America leading up to his arrival at his hotel, it evokes a strong close connection with a very emotionally captivating character.
Instead of getting an actor with a likeness of Kennedy to portray him, Estevez has decided to leave it authentic. Real footage of his address at the hotel and other scenes were intermixed with shots of the crowd full of all of these characters - no actual filmed facial shots of an actor portraying Kennedy were shown beyond the real footage. Unfortunately this decision took away from the otherwise involving story that was filmed with the actors. The quality of filming at the time was far from what it is today, and that obvious difference is found in these scenes where Estevez tries to connect today's footage with Bobby's real appearances. To some, this will help with the authenticity, as no one can replace Bobby, but to others, this will detract from the experience.
Bobby does have one of the most incredibly powerful and emotionally saddening scenes in any movie this entire year. One of Robert Kennedy's most amazing speeches is overlaid on top of the ending scenes after he's been shot and the mass confusion and panic that ensues at the hotel. The power and construction of this scene undoubtedly makes every previous moment throughout worth it, no matter how much everyone may say poor writing or poor acting otherwise destroyed it. Why can't the critics out there just appreciate and enjoy something like this? Why must they have to attack it and critically demean a movie that at the least has an ending no other movie this entire year will be able to match?
Bobby has everything: great comedy, moving emotional moments, a handful of talented actors, heartwarming stories and messages throughout, and best of all, the timeless wisdom of Robert F. Kennedy. Even today, Bobby, and the speech from Kennedy, depicts a strong emphasis on violence and only the destruction it brings upon this world. When a film can capture this amount of emotion, and tell wonderful stories with a fantastic and varied cast, it is certainly a masterpiece.