Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown
On June 5, 1968, Martin Sheen was awakened by his 6-year-old son, Emilio, with the news that presidential hopeful Sen. Robert F. Kennedy had been shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. The boy was too young to understand many of the goings-on, but he was old enough to understand that no man is larger than life.
Nearly 40 years later, Emilio Estevez has directed Bobby, the story of Kennedy's death on that day. And in doing so, he has made one of the year's best pictures.
What could have been a heavy-handed, melodramatic film turns out to be a triumphant breath of fresh air and an inspirational crowd-pleaser that will remind Americans of a time when the government actually represented the people. And make no mistake; Bobby is a people story.
The details of Kennedy's death take a backseat to the stories of those in and around the Ambassador Hotel at the time of his demise. In fact, the movie Bobby is hardly about the man at all. He's there, but mostly in perfectly placed archival clips and sound bytes.
Instead, the film gives us time with an impressive, cross-generational, multiracial cast, and the 22 vignettes they create. It's these actors' portrayal of shock, dismay, disappointment and dejection, even more than the way Estevez shares their stories, that deserves the utmost credit in making the film successful.
There's Laurence Fishburne, Freddy Rodriguez and Jacob Vargas as the kitchen staff; Sharon Stone as the hotel manicurist and confidant; William H. Macy as Stone's adulterous husband; Heather Graham as his mistress; Anthony Hopkins as a retired doorman; Harry Belafonte as Hopkins' chess partner; Martin Sheen and Helen Hunt as a materialistic couple; Lindsay Lohan and Elijah Wood as a young couple recently married to keep the husband out of Vietnam; Shia LeBeouf as a Kennedy youth; Ashton Kutcher as a drug dealer; Demi Moore as an aging, alcoholic diva; Estevez as a pushover husband; Joshua Jackson as a press secretary; Nick Cannon as another aide, one that might have a shot at Kennedy's cabinet. And there are others: Christian Slater, Joy Bryant, David Krumholtz, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and a hyper-annoying Svetlana Metkina.
Out of breath? You should be; that's a lot of talent.
The plot is muddled mostly due to the fact that it's comprised of 22 smaller plots, really. A few are inappropriately managed and distract the audience, but when you try to juggle as many stories as Estevez does here, it's an unavoidable error. And as disjointed as it sometimes feels, these interconnecting stories do provide the film an effective narrative.
The most egregious mistakes come when Estevez's vision becomes transparent almost regrettably, he tries to represent each and every group and viewpoint.
Despite its flaws, Estevez interweaves these stories into a singular vision which is actually quite an effective one. By the time Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence" signals the rousing climax of violence and tragic anarchy, viewers will understand Kennedy's story better than any history book could ever teach them.