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Poor Bobby

20 Nov

Robert Kennedy was a great man, and likely would have been a great president. Alas, when he was shot on June 5, 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, shortly after winning the California primary, the world lost one of its great hopes for leadership. This is the message Bobby is trying to put across (not that I disagree with it), in a film meant to pay tribute to all that was lost on that tragic June day.

I think.

You see, Bobby is instead a rather pointless film about what was happening at the hotel the day Kennedy was shot. And in dramatizing that story, and showing the various people milling around, the film loses sight of its apparent purpose and instead becomes an ensemble piece about all these random, unrelated people, and not the man itself. In fact, perhaps writer/director Emilio Estevez should have called his movie Ambassador because it’s more a tribute to the hotel than the man. But even that’s not very good. Really, he’s made a bit of a mess with so many actors doing ther best to deliver Very Important Speeches and give Very Important Performances. And it’s just too cluttered to have much impact (one need look no further than Ashton Kutcher’s distracting, ill-fitting performance for proof).

Not that some in the ensemble don’t acquit themselves well. Sharon Stone, for one, gives a nice, understated performance. Freddy Rodriguez and Martin Sheen also do good work. And Anthony Hopkins and Laurence Fishburne imbue the film with gravitas, even if their roles are complete cliches. But Kutcher, Lindsay Lohan, Demi Moore, and others make Bobby feel like a very special, very serious, political episode of The Love Boat, or something silly like that.

I wish Bobby was actually about Bobby, and about how much he meant to people and how much we lost when we lost him. There’s evidence in a few scenes that Estevez might have done a nice job on that film if that was the direction he took. But things don’t always go as planned, and that’s why I have to give Bobby a C.

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