Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Demi Moore, Sharon Stone, Lindsay Lohan, Elijah Wood, William H. Macy, Helen Hunt, Christian Slater, Heather Graham, Laurence Fishburne, Freddy Rodriguez, Nick Cannon, Emilio Estevez, Martin Sheen, Shia LaBeouf
Director: Emilio Estevez
It’s incredibly frustrating as a film critic to attend a screening that you thoroughly enjoy, only to return home and discover that you have absolutely nothing to say. If given the chance, it would have been extremely helpful to see “Bobby” a second time, since most of my first viewing was spent simply enjoying the film for its amazing ensemble cast. Written and directed by Emilio Estevez, “Bobby” is well-scripted, beautifully shot and wonderfully acted, and though its obvious lack of any coherent plot will no doubt disappoint those looking for a more substantial narrative, it stands as one of the richer, politically-charged film experiences of the year.
Taking place on June 6th, 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel (the day presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was shot and killed), “Bobby” tells the story of more than twenty different characters who were there the night of his assassination. From a retired hotel doorman (Anthony Hopkins) to pair of campaign aids (Nick Cannon and Joshua Jackson), the film examines the effect that the life (and death) of RFK has on all of their lives. Whether it’s the hotel manager (William H. Macy) breaking off an affair with a sexy switchboard operator (Heather Graham) only to discover that his beautician wife (Sharon Stone) already knows, an alcoholic movie star (Demi Moore) coping with the slow demise of her career, or a young woman (Lindsay Lohan) agreeing to marry a boy from her school (Elijah Wood) in order to prevent him from being sent off to Vietnam, none of these vignettes have any significant connection to the Senator other than that they took place in the same building on the day he was murdered.
Several other stars light up the screen at one time or another – including Christian Slater as the manager of the hotel restaurant, Lawrence Fishburne as the hotel sous chef , and Martin Sheen and Helen Hunt as a rich couple on vacation – but the most entertaining threads come from some of the lesser-known talents. Shia LeBouf and Brian Geraghty play two campaign volunteers who ditch their door-to-door duties for an all-day drug romp courtesy of a hippie pusher (Ashton Kutcher), and Freddy Rodriguez demands a good portion of the story as a Latino busboy who wants nothing more than to see Dodgers star Don Drysdale pitch his sixth consecutive shutout.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the film is just how damn incestual it feels – Martin's son is Emilo, who once dated Demi, who’s now married to Ashton, and so forth – but one could argue that it only makes the characters feel more like a family. Estevez himself takes a small role as the husband of Moore’s narcissistic performer, but it’s his work behind the camera that will likely earn him praise. More of an RFK loyalist than a simple devotee, the writer/director equates the tragic loss to that of a general feeling of vanished hope in the country’s struggle for peace and integration. He also does so while juggling a super-sized cast of actors all deserving of at least some recognition for their convincing performances. The last man to accomplish such a grand feat was Robert Altman.
The single-disc release of “Bobby” isn’t a very exciting affair, unless you’re a devoted follower of the presidential candidate’s assassination. With the exception of a 28-minute making-of featurette (“Bobby: The Making of an American Epic”) – which spends just as much time on RFK as the film itself – the only other extra to appear is a panel discussion with four survivors from the Ambassador Hotel tragedy.