Then, almost 40 years later, Emilio Estevez will spend two hours of your time kissing RFK’s ass.
If there’s a reason you’re curious about watching BOBBY, it’s probably the fact that the above people all star in it. The cast assembled is indeed legendary but the way in which they’re used ultimately renders them, and the film, pointless.
You can feel Emilio Estevez reaching for an Oscar in every frame of BOBBY. All the ingredients are there: intersecting stories rooted in a historical tragedy involving race relations, politics and people overcoming obstacles. (Haha, CRASH, you only had racism!) To Estevez’s credit, it sounds good in theory (or when previously done in Robert Altman’s NASHVILLE) and he does a great job recreating the look and feel of the 1960s, but unfortunately the story comes together as a jumbled mess.
Right from the get go we’re presented with footage of Kennedy speaking, the Vietnam War, Martin Luther King’s assassination—Estevez obviously wants to make some sort of grand statement. But is the movie a love letter to the life and ideals of the fallen senator? A blatant parallel to our current state of war and politics? A commentary on the historical progress of civil rights? I couldn’t tell you because Estevez never tells us. For all its high-minded lecturing, BOBBY suffers from the same problem I had with the similarly constructed CRASH—it points out all these obvious (however unfortunate) truths about people and pretends like it’s discovered something revolutionary. For example, there’s a character whose sole purpose is to every 30 seconds yell “I’m discriminated against because I’m Mexican!” Well, you’re right! There was racism in the 1960s. Annnnnd…
I attribute BOBBY’s problems to the fact that there’s just way too much going on. With over ten different storylines at play and with so many people involved, every character is reduced to minutes of screentime. There’s the hotel workers, the kitchen staff, the reporters, the political pundits, hippies, students, celebrities—all of whom need to have their individual stories set up and resolved in two hours. So when Helen Hunt and Martin Sheen have an extended conversation about shoes or Demi Moore gets drunk and starts comparing the feminine mystique to a Twinkie, it feels like we’re just wasting precious time waiting until the assassination. When the film finally reaches its climax, the aftermath has a few powerful moments, but it lingers too long—mostly because it has to show how each of the 20+ characters is affected. And the only person I really cared about was Freddy Rodriguez’s kitchen worker, and that’s only because we spend the most time with his character.
I don’t feel like I got much out of BOBBY; no better understanding of Kennedy or what he stood for, no background on his assassination, no new lessons about the politically charged era, and no great insight in to these characters. It also doesn’t help that each of the film’s subplots has been done to death (extramarital affairs, racism, alcoholism, coming of age). As Estevez presents it, the only way BOBBY could work would be as a four hour movie, and I don’t think I’d particularly want to watch that either.
BOBBY: The Making of an American Epic (28:15): Estevez talks about how this is a personal, long gestating project for him and most of the cast also gets time in front of the camera to discuss their connection to the film. There’s some additional segments from various crew and more interestingly, historians on Bobby Kennedy himself. All in all, a thorough extra.
Eyewitness Accounts from the Ambassador Hotel (29:13): A panel of witnesses to RFK’s assassination each discuss what they remember about that night. It’s a nice complement to the film, which gives some insight in to the titular man (something the movie itself is strangely lacking).
Theatrical Trailer, too.
Extra Tidbit: Bryan Adams, Mary J. Blige and Aretha Franklin all contributed to the soundtrack.