I go to the movies for different reasons, and different things happen each time. That is the beauty and wonder of art. If you view music, poetry, literature, and film as expressions of art rather than mere forms of entertainment, you can gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of the world, of your own environment, and of yourself and those around you. When you gain that appreciation, these are the times when art speaks to your soul, when it achieves something great. I’m not trying to be melodramatic, but I’m a person who likes to think and to feel. When you do anything that makes you really think, or really feel, I think that is a wonderful thing, and that is one of the many aspects of art that I love. I saw two movies this weekend (Bobby and Blood Diamond) that made me think and made me feel something. Let’s look at Bobby first.
It’s hard to believe that the life and assassination of Robert F. Kennedy hasn’t been tackled yet, but I think actor and director Emilio Estevez (Judgment Night, The Breakfast Club) is the first to take on the task in Bobby. The movie is as much about Kennedy’s effect on the American public as it is about the actual man. Bobby is told through the eyes of the occupants of The Ambassador Hotel, where RFK was shot in 1968.
Estevez has assembled an impressive ensemble cast, including Martin Sheen (The Departed), Demi Moore (Ghost), Helen Hunt (As Good as It Gets), Nick Cannon (Drumline), Lindsay Lohan (Mean Girls), Christian Slater (Murder in the First), and Joy Bryant (The Skeleton Key), among others. You get the idea – there’s a gang of people in this movie. The people are not important; what resonates so deeply from Bobby is the powerful effect RFK had on American citizens from all walks of life. People just don’t feel that way about politicians nowadays. I’m looking at the movie and I’m struck by how much people LOVED this man. Estevez interspersed the movie with actual footage of RFK, and there is no denying that the man was absolutely adored and that he had a good heart and a good soul. During a tumultuous time for our country, he offered some semblance of hope for the future, and not in that cheesy bullshit way we see now, but like he really gave a damn. I’m not trying to sip the Kennedy kool-aid, I’m just trying to convey to you what the movie conveyed to me. The man next to me in the theater was crying, and when the closing credits rolled over a Kennedy montage – no one got up to leave. That means that this man had more than just a passing effect on people. There has always been something sad and tragic about not knowing what might have been. That is the legacy of RFK: untapped potential, untold possibilities. He was a truly good man who was snuffed out during a time when the country seemed to be going crazy in a perfect storm of tragedy: the assassinations of JFK, MLK, the Vietnam War, etc. Bobby uses its ensemble cast of characters to convey this turbulent and desperate time.
The movie is not without its flaws, as the script is plodding in places and the dialogue borders on sappy. The transition between scenes and characters was less than smooth, a flaw which was magnified by the intersecting storylines and characters. Many scenes felt choppy and disjointed. All of these flaws were erased in the electrifying final 30 minutes of the film, which depict the actual assassination and its chaotic aftermath. Here the ensemble cast shines in its delivery of collective pain, suffering, comfort, and finally: despair. Emilio Estevez’ Bobby is ambitious and deeply meaningful in its portrait of a fallen paragon of hope, taken too soon as the great ones always seem to be.