I think the failure of Emilio Estevez's "Bobby" lies in his broad cinematic brush strokes. Endeavoring to make a film not only as a tribute to 1960's idealism, but also as a warning for today's political climate, the picture has no point of entry. It's a self-centered movie about a seemingly selfless man, and its criminal (or ironic) that a picture about a politician renown for his clarity would result in a movie that's a mess.
Estevez desires a "Grand Hotel" design to "Bobby," devising characters and storylines to weave through the Ambassador Hotel on the lengthy day Robert Kennedy, on the cusp of solidifying his inspiring run for President, was gunned down by assassin Sirhan B. Sirhan. So how could Estevez get away with taking a split-second act of aggression and stretch it into nearly two hours of drama?
Movie stars. Loads of 'em.
"Bobby" positively vomits A, B, and C-list celebrities in various supporting roles, with Estevez calling in every favor he can think of. Anthony Hopkins, Lindsay Lohan, Helen Hunt, Elijah Wood, Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, Laurence Fishburne, Sharon Stone, Christian Slater, Shia LeBeouf, Joshua Jackson, Nick Cannon, Heather Graham, Harry Belafonte, Martin Sheen, and William H. Macy all make appearances as those who struggled with the changing political world outside their rooms, as well as fighting the relationship turmoil within.
Estevez stays nimble cutting back and forth between the subplots, but he can't overcome the lack of delicacy in his own screenplay. The filmmaker wants "Bobby" to play to all audiences, but he's using the school of underlining to makes his points, pushing the cast to play simple melodrama with obvious intentions. This method of caricature does lend "Bobby" a widescreen feel of varying personalities, but it cheapens the exploration of the era, reducing hard-fought topics of debate (racism, immigration, Vietnam) and ardent political candidate support (a concept that the world could use more of) to a cartoonish level of appreciation. It might give the cast something juicy to play with, but it curdles the blood to see such a multi-tiered moment of history reduced to high school history book screenwriting.
As high wattage as the cast is, Estevez should've reconsidered some of his acting options. It's fun to see Demi Moore back with Estevez, especially if you're as much of a fan of the actor's directorial debut, "Wisdom," as I am. But Moore's take on an alcoholic lounge singer's final fling with fame is almost impossible to watch because the actress goes far too big dramatizing the slurring effects of inebriation. The same could be said of real-life husband Kutcher, who shows up in an extended, mind-numbingly awful scene as a hippie who deals acid to two of Kennedy's young volunteers. If the thought of Kutcher in a long, scruffy wig, wearing a paisley poncho sounds terrible, try to sit through the actual scene without getting up and walking out.
The titular fellow, the late Bobby Kennedy, is shown in archival news footage and audio tape recordings of his speeches. Estevez clearly has a great deal of affection for Kennedy, and a lot of the film is set aside drawing the requisite parallels between Bobby's fight against Vietnam and the current Iraq quagmire. It's a point well made in a film that isn't. Star power alone pushes "Bobby" to a point where it's a comfortable failure, but once it sinks in what level of drama these actors are in service of, the hope that 'Bobby" will be elevated into something reflective and inspiring dies a quick death.
For further online adventure, please visit brianorndorf.com