It's no coincidence that Bobby is getting its national release on November 23, nearly 43 years to the date that Bobby Kennedy's brother, John F. Kennedy, was murdered in Dallas. Aside from turkey overindulgence and tryptophan naps, the JFK assassination always works its way to the top of our collective consciousness this time of year, which also happens to be the cusp of awards season, a salient point that is certainly not lost on distributors The Weinstein Company (formerly Miramax).
Although Bobby is about the other Kennedy brother who was assassinated, Robert, it still hits the perfect notes of nostalgia and sentiment that one would expect in a Kennedy remembrance. This is a movie that allows the hope Bobby Kennedy inspired to resonate--and to an extent, live on--beyond what a bullet took away.
The setting is the Ambassador Hotel in California on June 4, 1968, the day presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy won the Democratic primary, but was gunned down in the kitchen of the hotel later that night. The story is not a straight narrative, but rather an episodic sketch of the (mostly fictional) people who were at the hotel that fateful day.
The camera follows more than 22 characters, almost all of whom are played by A-list talent who in many cases took a substantial pay cut (or worked for free). Notable among them is Anthony Hopkins as John Casey, a retired door man who considers the hotel his true home; a young couple (Lindsay Lohan and Elijah Wood) who are only getting married to keep him from going to Vietnam; and William H. Macy as the hotel manager who's cheating on his wife (Sharon Stone) with a telephone operator (Heather Graham), but also has the moral righteousness to fire the kitchen manager (Christian Slater) for not allowing immigrant workers their rights.
Lost in the midst of these names is Emilio Estevez, who plays Tim Fallon, the estranged husband of lounge singer Virginia Fallon (Demi Moore, who was once romantically linked to Estevez; Moore's current husband, Ashton Kutcher, also appears in the film as a drug dealer). When you're done chuckling over the idea that Estevez could appear in something worthwhile, take heed of the fact that he also wrote and directed the film, and did so with great aplomb. Indeed, Bobby is not the work of an inexperienced filmmaker; the balance of interconnecting stories and the emotional impact of the ending suggests the work of a man at the top of his craft.
Estevez's startling effort aside, the best part about the movie is the strong sense of history and nostalgia emanating from every frame. This is done through the costumes, setting and values, and also through the use of the real Bobby Kennedy via archival footage. His presence is both welcome and haunting, and as the serenity and hope of his words fill the screen, it's almost if he's giving us a blueprint for a better, more peaceful America: "Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
Opens Thursday at Edwards 9 and Edwards 21 Theaters.