Film Review: Bobby

I would love to sit here and say that I watched Bobby through a conscious decision, some overriding thought to extend the look into mid sixties American politics that was awoken by Selma; but sadly I can’t. If I’m honest, before it brought it up on film, I had totally forgotten that Booby Kennedy while not directly, certainly intertwines with Martin Luther King and the visions for a united, equal and fair United States they both wanted to see.

I had memories of Bobby being an entertaining but very focused and specialised film, put together in a very flaky way and that certainly felt accurate again as I watched it. It’s the story of the infamous turn of events at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles during the 1968 Californian Primary Election and the dramatic conclusion on the night of the election results.

Elijah Wood & Lindsay Lohan - Bobby

The first problem I have with Bobby though is that everything feels muted, it’s the 1960s, everything should be bright and colourful and “trippy” and it’s just not. The colour palette appears pale and muted. There is almost a sombre tone. A dark foreseeing. It just doesn’t feel right and makes you feel uneasy because you can’t really trust it. It doesn’t let you settle and relax into the characters which is where this movie needs you to go because they are such an important part.

Bobby uses it’s characters to personify the social and moral issues facing America at the time, but there are just too many; it tries to expand its speech into too many areas. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve gone all out and assembled an amazing cast of big names to act as the voice: Harry Belafonte, Emilio Estevez, Heather Graham, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Hunt, Joshua Jackson, Shia LaBeouf, William H. Macy, Demi Moore, Martin Sheen, Christian Slater, Sharon Stone, Elijah Wood to name just a few. But this means that we never really get to spend long enough with any of them to really understand their motives or for them to convincingly settle their arguments. And some seem completely pointless, adding nothing but stereotypical tomfoolery.

Freddy Rodriguez - Bobby

In fact, it’s the scenes with Laurence Fishburne (making a quick appearance and inspirational monologue as the hotel chef) along with the supporting kitchen staff that really show you what this film could have been and highlight just how pointless such a long list of big names truly is. And in fact, Freddy Rodríguez arguably steals the show by bringing a believable humility to his character. You warm to him and like him, feeling his emotional suffering in a way that no other character, aside from the fleeting Fishburne, even comes close to.

I think the biggest problem for me though is that I found there was an undercurrent of pedestalling running through the film. I couldn’t help but feel that Emilio Estevez, acting as Director, was just too personally enamoured by Bobby Kennedy and too emotionally torn by the social fluctuations, reasons and sufferings of the time. It honestly feels like he is too blinded by the project and by the man to make the film that should have been made. It feels like vanity film making. Like a story he felt needed to be told, to be documented.

Emilio Estevez (Directing) - Bobby

This is illustrated beautifully by the lack of casting of Kennedy in anything other than the back of his head or out of focus glimpse. When we do get to see his face, it is archival footage. Portraying the man and his words with 100% accuracy. Yet this demanded truth and realism feels unnatural within the confines of the rest of the film. It serves only to break up the purpose of the film. You don’t know if you’re meant to be educated or entertained. Is this a political documentary or an artistic movie.

And this confusion means that the film never really moves you because it spends so long implying. Simply showing you how life was back them, what lengths people who go to and what divisions there were that it forgets to actually make it’s point. It all just blends together into a lot of padding without any explanation or reason. And so, when Kennedy finally arrives at the hotel, the change in tone is too dramatic to accept. And the ending totally out of character with everything that has gone before. The story of Bobby Kennedy, what he stood for and his power of unity throughout America is a piece of history that deserves to be told, remembered and studied. But sadly this just isn’t it. Bobby had the power to really move you, to really make you feel, to place you in the heat of the moment but it never got out of first gear because it tried to do too much. It’s an interesting film, I was never bored, but I was never gripped either. It tried to raise the man just a little too high and ended up just buckling under the weight.

6 out of 10 stars (6 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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