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BOBBY

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Harry Belafonte, Joy Bryant, Nick Cannon, Emilio Estevez, Laurence Fishburne, Brian Geraghty, Heather Graham, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Hunt, Joshua Jackson, David Krumholtz, Ashton Kutcher, Shia LaBeouf, Lindsay Lohan, William H. Macy, Svetlana Metkina, Demi Moore, Freddy Rodriguez, Martin Sheen, Christian Slater, Sharon Stone, Jacob Vargas, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Elijah Wood
Director: Emilio Estevez
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Weinstein Company
Features: See Review
Length: 119 Minutes
Release Date: April 10, 2007

“Our lives on this planet are too short. The work to be done is too great. But we can perhaps remember that those who live with us are our brothers. That they share with us the same short moment of life.”

-Sen. Robert F. Kennedy

Film ***1/2

June 4th, 1968. It was a day that began with hope and ended in tragedy. It was the day that Sen. Robert F. Kennedy had won the California Democratic primary, meaning he was the likely front-runner to face off with Richard Nixon in the upcoming election. It was also the day that the charismatic senator was assassinated in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

Emilio Estevez might not come to mind as the most likely writer/director to recreate this moment in history. With only two films on his resume as a director, one might question if he was the right choice for material that would be better suited for someone like Oliver Stone. But the truth is Bobby has been a labor of love for Estevez, who had been preparing to do the project since the beginning of his career.

And Estevez, writing his own screenplay, recreates the particular day by creating fictional characters inspired by some of the seventy-seven eyewitnesses of the assassination. In true Altman-like fashion, Estevez has been able to attract a remarkable star-studded cast. Basically, each character is portrayed by a recognizable face.

But for all the remarkable qualities of the amazing cast, Estevez made a wise choice by not having RFK recreated through acting but seen only through archival news footage. The film opens with a passionate speech from the senator over a montage of news footage. His speech at the Ambassador is the actual footage of him shot minutes before his assassination, intercut with the reactions of the characters, and the film concludes in a most powerful manner, as characters deal with the aftermath (an accompanying and heartfelt RFK voiceover during the final moments will stay with me for a long time).

In between, we are given brief glimpses into the lives of guests, employees and campaign workers who were there that night. From the hotel doorman (Anthony Hopkins) to the manager (William H. Macy), the kitchen chef (Laurence Fishburne) to the dishwasher (Freddy Rodriguez), a married couple from New York (Martin Sheen, Helen Hunt) to newlyweds-to-be (Elijah Wood, Lindsay Lohan), an alcoholic singer (Demi Moore) to the hotel’s top stylist (Sharon Stone), we are given an idea of the people who there to show support for a political figure who personified hope and change, only to play eyewitness to a horrible moment in our history.

And the importance and strength of Bobby is reminding us of the devastation that resulted from that loss of hope, which is perfectly conveyed in the film’s closing moments. It had me thinking to myself, what would’ve happened if Robert Kennedy had lived and even gone on to become President. Would things have turned out better? There’s no telling, but I’d like to think they would’ve. All politicians had their flaws, but to me RFK and his brother stood out as passionate men who made you believe the words they spoke. It’s just too upsetting to accept that both men lost their lives during their attempts to make things better for our country.

Emilio Estevez has really surprised me with the level of passion he has thrown into this film. When you consider the fact that he encountered writers block while finishing the screenplay, which he had written half of sometime ago, you gain a certain level of respect…at least I did, because to me that is pure passion for a project. And though it may be sacrilege to compare him to that of Robert Altman, Estevez may have what it takes to be the next Altman, even though many other filmmakers like Paul Haggis and Paul Thomas Anderson have also earned that title.

Bobby is one riveting triumph of the unexpected. The personal labor of love project from Emilio Estevez is dynamic in the way it recreates a tragic day in our history. And if anything, it makes you long for the day that a passionate and charismatic figure like Robert F. Kennedy will emerge on the political scene in the future. I think we need one.

BONUS TRIVIA: The Ambassador Hotel was being torn down as the film crew shot on the property.

Video ****

This Weinstein Company release presents a terrific and tremendously sharp picture. The anamorphic picture delivers in all areas. Image quality is remarkably clear and crisp from beginning to end and colors are as vibrant as can be. The time period feels even more real as a result of the outstanding picture quality.

Audio ***

The 5.1 mix is effortless, despite the film being mostly dialogue oriented. The hotel setting offers many sequences of nice, clear background sound. Added to that, dialogue delivery and Mark Isham’s beautiful score are strong ingredients for the top-notch sound quality.

Features **1/2

Included are two documentaries, each a half-hour in length. The first is “Bobby: The Making of an American Epic”, which covers the making of the film in many aspects. The second is “Eyewitness Accounts from the Ambassador Hotel”, which features a panel of individuals who were actually there on that fateful night. Both are intriguing and well handled, which is why I’m giving credit to this area. Also featured is a Theatrical Trailer.

Summary:

Bobby is a historical piece that delivers beyond the promise of a magnificent cast. It’s a tremendously crafted and passionate recreation of a day that will be impossible to forget. If you weren’t able to see the events as they occurred, Emilio Estevez has made a film that will boldly put you there.

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