The Austin Chronicle


Rated R, 120 min. Directed by Emilio Estevez. Starring Harry Belafonte, Nick Cannon, Emilio Estevez, Laurence Fishburne, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Hunt, Ashton Kutcher, Lindsay Lohan, William H. Macy, Demi Moore, Martin Sheen, Christian Slater, Sharon Stone, Elijah Wood, Freddy Rodríguez, Heather Graham, Joshua Jackson, Shia LaBeouf, Joy Bryant.

REVIEWED By Josh Rosenblatt, Fri., Nov. 24, 2006

In the early hours of June 5, 1968, on the night after his victory in California’s Democratic presidential primary, Robert Kennedy was shot to death in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. At the time of his assassination, Kennedy was riding a wave of populist sentiment, built on his strong opposition to the war in Vietnam and his even stronger support of civil rights and anti-poverty legislation. His ideas had turned him into a hero in the eyes of many still reeling from the assassination of Martin Luther King two months earlier. The story of Bobby Kennedy, from his years battling organized crime bosses and Cuban communists as attorney general to his later political life as a champion of the poor and disenfranchised, would make one hell of an epic melodrama. But writer/director Estevez chooses to forgo biopic convention with Bobby, instead focusing on the lives of 22 other people who happened to be in the Ambassador that fateful night – everyday people whose own private dramas are playing out in the shadow of impending historical tragedy. The movie isn’t about Kennedy; rather, Kennedy is the sun around which all the other planets of the film revolve. And like some epic Louis B. Mayer picture from the Thirties, Bobby has a thousand stars in its galaxy, some of them great (Fishburne, Rodríguez), some of them not (Wood, Hunt), and one of them brilliant (Hopkins). Together they create a universe of small and fleeting human moments – a world where minor struggles and interpersonal strife run parallel to the decade’s madness raging right outside the gates, soon to breach the walls. Estevez has a surprisingly sure hand both as a writer and director, and he manages to broach the most pressing issues of the day – drugs, Vietnam, racism, poverty – with a subtle touch. Bobby is a good film because it’s a surprising film and a human one. The 800-pound elephant in the room is that man and that bullet. But until they make their entrance, Bobby is content with the lives of everyday people who are about to get caught up in the avalanche of history. (Opens Thursday).

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