The story of Robert F. Kennedy is tragic, powerful, and mesmerizing all at once, enough to carry any feature film even loosely based on the slain politician. Emilio Estevez's "Bobby" follows suit accordingly: it keeps a loose theme centered around the peaceful figure, and even though the countless short stories it encompasses are left to fend for themselves, their mutual connection to RFK's untimely death makes for a very thought-provoking theatrical experience. You will leave the theatre with a deep sense of empathy - for Bobby himself, the tumultuous nation around him, and the entire world, which lost one of its most inspiring leaders before he was ever even given the chance to help it.
As if that weren't enough, "Bobby" features perhaps the most star-studded cast of any movie ever made. There are more well known actors in this film than there is space to mention them all, though only a handful offer memorable performances. They all play individuals who were either working or staying at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968, the date and location of Kennedy's assassination.
Between RFK's engrossing tale and the surplus of known talent, then, it seems like a can't miss scenario. There are many instances, however, where even with the best of intentions, the film misses.
My biggest complaint was the unnatural dialogue in some scenes, especially in the confusing relationship between Helen Hunt and Martin Sheen. These two are hard to buy as a couple and their characters contribute very little to the film as well. Laurence Fishburne's character is also tough to accept, as every interaction he initiates becomes a momentous occasion, wherein he delivers each time an epic monologue so unrealistic he might as well be standing in front of a podium.
This is not the actor's fault, just a sign the script might have been better off with one more round of revision. Completely understandable too, considering Estevez not only wrote the movie, he also directed and starred in it. With that in mind, this is a very commendable achievement, and a very impressive attempt at introducing a fresh approach to movie-making.
Which stars did shine in "Bobby?" Demi Moore gave a terrific portrayal of Virginia Fallon, an aging alcoholic lounge club singer, Christian Slater hit the mark as a supervisor in the hotel's kitchen, and William H. Macy is solid as always playing a hotel manager. There are two college-aged male duos helping in the Kennedy campaign that both worked well together, one of which is a pair experimenting with LSD during the movie while the other two are working hard to secure an RFK victory in the California primary. The latter pair is especially intriguing, played by Joshua Jackson and, of all people, hip-hop star Nick Cannon, while Lindsay Lohan also offers a notable performance as a young woman marrying a high school friend in order to prevent his deployment to Vietnam. The friend is played by Elijah Wood, and the list of other stars present just goes on and on, from Anthony Hopkins to Heather Graham to Sharon Stone.
Somehow, each of these actors seems to receive equal attention throughout the film, and the arrangement Estevez gives the movie is its best feature, never establishing a single character as more important than any other and using only actual news footage of Bobby himself. This provides a sense of unity for the movie, the same goal at which Kennedy aimed and seemed almost destined to reach. The best moments of the film are those in which RFK appears, reminding everyone of all the hope and peace and revolution the younger brother of John F. Kennedy truly embodied.
Even with its shortcomings, then, this is definitely a movie worth seeing, if nothing more than to find a better understanding of who Bobby was. I personally never realized what a tremendous loss it was that RFK was murdered, because his older brother seems to garner much more attention, but now understand the joy and virtually unequaled power to unify this man represented. It is simply pure, disheartening irony then that an act of senseless violence in a period of senseless violence killed the only man who appeared capable of peace.