Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Making Of Bobby; Eyewitness Accounts From The Ambassador Hotel; Theatrical Trailer.NOW here’s something truly special. From its terrific ensemble cast to its emotional and political complexity, Emilio Estevez’s Bobby is one of the year’s finest movies.
As writer, director and one of its many stars, Estevez has crafted a personal tour-de-force that takes one of the defining moments in American history and transforms it into something everyone can relate to.
Bobby follows the fortunes of 22 characters – some real-life, others fictional and representative of America at the time – who were staying at the Ambassador Hotel on June 4, 1968 – the night that Presidential candidate (and people’s favourite) Senator Robert F Kennedy was assassinated.
Although its impact carried less of an impact globally than the death of his brother, John F Kennedy, years earlier, it signalled a watershed in US politics and marked an end to the political idealism that had been sweeping the nation.
It’s to Estevez’s eternal credit, however, that Bobby opts to portray such a moment through the eyes of people audiences can relate to, rather than churning out a string of conspiracy theories or examining the complex politics that may have led to it.
The film ends with the assassination, by which time viewers have invested their time in the lives of the many people staying or working at the hotel.
These include Anthony Hopkins’ retired doorman; William H Macy’s hotel manager; his wife (Sharon Stone) and his mistress (Heather Graham); two young lovers planning to marry so that he can avoid the Vietnam draft (Linday Lohan and Elijah Wood); an optimistic busboy (Freddy Rodriguez), his head chef (Laurence Fishburne) and their racist manager (Christian Slater); a fading lounge singer (Demi Moore), her husband (Estevez) and a middle-aged couple in town to celebrate Kennedy’s rise to power (Helen Hunt and Martin Sheen).
Estevez, the director, follows their stories in compelling fashion, ensuring – in Altman-esque style – that each cast member has the chance to shine. And he’s rewarded with some rich performances.
Moore, in particular, displays hidden depths as the alcoholic singer and enjoys one breathtaking scene with Stone’s hairdresser as she reflects on her pitiful career, while Macy also shines as the apparently earnest manager embroiled in an affair.
But everyone gets a moment in the spotlight to savour, whether it’s Hopkins’ reflecting on past glories over the course of several chess matches, or the tender moments between Sheen and Hunt’s husband and wife.
The only weak link is Ashton Kutcher’s supposedly comic turn as a stoned drug dealer – supposedly representative of the drug culture – but thankfully his scenes are kept to a minimum.
In all other respects, this is an outstanding achievement – one that treats a potentially difficult subject matter with the sensitivity and intelligence it deserves.
Come the emotional climax, viewers may be holding back the tears as the impact of Kennedy’s shooting – relayed by intercutting real footage – becomes etched on the faces of the characters we have come to know and love.
What’s more, Estevez ensures that its relevance is not forgotten, leaving viewers with the voice of Kenny from one of the politician’s most important speeches – an elegy he wrote for the slain Martin Luther King that holds just as much relevance for the world today.
It’s the masterstroke that completes a masterpiece – and one that’s likely to leave audiences pondering “what if…”?
Running time: 2hrs