Back in the 1980s, Emilio Estevez was a member of the so-called
"Brat Pack," a group of young actors who appeared in seminal movies
like THE BREAKFAST CLUB and ST. ELMO'S FIRE. Estevez also tried
his hand at writing and directing (e.g., WISDOM, RATED X) to mixed
or poor results. He's pretty much been missing in action over the last
decade while his father Martin Sheen and his brother Charlie Sheen
have enjoyed career resurgence thanks primarily to the small screen.
Well, Emilio Estevez has emerged from the shadows with a new
film, BOBBY, which he wrote, directed and in which he appears.
It is set at the Ambassador Hotel on the day of June 4, 1968.
Now, unless you know you're history well, you might be wondering
what was so special about that day. Well, it happened to be primary
day in California and Robert F. Kennedy needed to win a decisive
victory in the state in order for his presidential aspirations to become
possible. The Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles -- which has been
demolished -- was the site selected as Kennedy's campaign
headquarters and it was the place where he met his untimely death
at the hands of assassin Sirhan Sirhan.
BOBBY follows about two dozen characters over the course of
the day and while many have noted the film's similarity to the 1932
Oscar winning Best Picture GRAND HOTEL -- Estevez even teases
the audience by having Anthony Hopkins' retired doorman make
a reference to that movie -- it actually follows a more recent template.
Estevez has modeled the story more on Robert Altman's 1975
masterpiece NASHVILLE. Certainly, if you are going to steal ideas
for a film, there are worse choices to make. Unfortunately, the
screenplay for BOBBY doesn't come close to the work of Joan
Tewkesbury (the credited screenwriter on Altman's classic). Both
movies follow a large and sprawling cast and both feature political
For me, Estevez's use of existing footage and recordings
of Robert F. Kennedy were excessive and tangential to the
mini-dramas he sketched out. He has managed to attract an
impressive array of actors to the project, but only a couple of
performers rise above the mundane and trite material.
Among those the audience follows are a retired doorman
(Anthony Hopkins) who keeps returning to the hotel daily to hang
out and play chess with another retiree (Harry Belafonte), a boring
middle-class Eastern couple (Martin Sheen and Helen Hunt), two
slacker campaign workers (Shia LeBeouf and Brian Geraghty) who
decide to spend the day getting high with the in-house drug
dealer (Ashton Kutcher), a young woman (Lindsay Lohan) about
to marry a boy she barely knows (Elijah Wood) so he won't have
to ship out for Vietnam, and a boozy lounge singer (Demi Moore)
and her doormat of a husband (Estevez).
In addition, the film follows various members of the staff,
including two telephone operators (Joy Bryant and Heather Graham),
one of whom (Graham) is carrying on an affair with the hotel's
manager (William H. Macy) whose wife (Sharon Stone) works in
the hotel's beauty salon. There's also the racist (Christian Slater)
who oversees the kitchen staff (composed of wise chef Laurence
Fishburne and Mexican busboys Jacob Vargas and Freddy Rodriguez).
On the periphery are the coffee shop waitress (Mary Elizabeth
Winstead), additional members of Kennedy's campaign staff
(Joshua Jackson and Nick Cannon), and in the most direct nod
to NASHVILLE, a female reporter (Svetlana Metkina) who hails
from Czechoslovakia and is there to interview the candidate.
The screenplay is a collection of half-formed ideas and
partial character traits masquerading as fully-rounded people.
The Hunt-Sheen scenes are superfluous at best, while the
drug dealer and the LSD trip that the two young workers
experience is almost laughably bad. Fishburne is saddled with
a terrible monologue. Moore, whose thespian talents have always
been pretty limited, is taxed beyond her means portraying an
alcoholic singer. Lohan and Wood barely register in underwritten
parts while Macy and Slater are passable in their roles. Stone wisely
underplays her character's rage and anger.
Estevez clearly meant the film to be an earnest work
depicting the United States at a time when the country was faced
with some of the same problems with which it is currently grappling:
an unpopular foreign conflict, a dearth of charismatic leaders,
social upheaval. But his script merely connects the dots and doesn't
really offer anything deep or resonate. Unfortunately, BOBBY
doesn't really do justice to the legacy of Senator Kennedy but
merely uses it as an excuse around which to build a poor soap
MPAA Rating: R for language, drug content and
a scene of violence
Running time: 120 mins.
|© 2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.