A movie about the other Kennedy… who died

By Andrea Campbell

It’s easy to assume a movie titled Bobby would reveal something of Robert F. Kennedy, the 1968 Democratic candidate for president. Instead, director Emilio Estevez uses Kennedy to focus on a collection of staff and patrons who were at the Ambassador Hotel on the night Kennedy was shot, leaving the man himself a mystery. The film attempts to define Robert Kennedy by those who embodied the social issues he fought for. Estevez’ star-studded cast deal with racism, LSD, alcoholism and adultery to great effect at times, but the film ultimetly falls into cliche.

Bobby hopscotches from one character duo, and the pertinent political issue represented by each, to the next. From the first scene, in which Freddy Rodriguez’s Jose discovers he has to work a double shift because, as he’s told, “You’re a Mexican,” Estevez sacrifices characterization for exposition. Unfortunatley, too many storylines mean the direction relies on swelling music and overwrought dialogue. The rare energy-infused scenes, like Laurence Fishburne’s Edward and Jacob Vargas’s Miguel sparring with interracial repartee, often disintegrate into contrived morality plays. Moments of insights like Demi Moore lamenting how she and the aging Sharon Stone have “the shelf life of Twinkies” dissolve into canned comments–Elijah Wood’s doe-eyed William confesses to his new bride, Lindsay Lohan’s Diane, “I don’t even know your favourite colour.”

Estevez relies on his cast to carry his script, and consequently, the best shots in the film are those when no one is saying anything at all, just standing there in their perfectly coiffed ’60s bouffants and smiling their A-list smiles. None of the characters get enough screen time to develop past a caricature, and as a result, their stories never gain relevance to the piece as a whole. The film is a waiting game to see who will be left standing, not from the bullets that ultimately hit each of the peripheral characters, but as more than an outline of a social construct. Anthony Hopkins’s Casey is the one beacon of verisimilitude who is spared an expository monologue or dialogue, complete with built-in motivation and plot device. Shia LaBeouf’s Jimmy stars in the highlight of the film: scratching in a litter box wearing nothing but white ankle socks while tripping out on LSD. Robert Kennedy never makes it on-screen with the rest of the cast, and those around him reveal nothing more about the man who should have been president.

Just as the characters push to get a closer look at Kennedy, the film fights to catch a glimpse of the title figure. Estevez fails to offer anything beyond a shadowed silhouette, and the attempts to use the supporting cast to reflect Kennedy’s ideals result in the man himself getting swallowed up in the crowd. And then shot.

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