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September 15, 2006

“Bobby” is a film where I want to see the final cut before fully committing my opinion. Already divisive in the extreme, I currently find myself between the ‘love it’ and ‘hate it’ camps on the film. Estevez is certainly no master of filmmaking, and this shows as the film’s script really needed to be brushed up while the direction was lacking. Yet the great passion he has for this project shines through to such a tremendous degree that an appropriately nostalgic tale is created that truly engages the viewer.

Telling the story of a group of people who were at the Ambassador Hotel the day Robert Kennedy was assassinated, the cast is so huge that the characters end up feeling more like ideas than fully drawn out individuals. This hardly makes for ideal filmmaking, especially as the dialogue really could have been brushed up at times while many of the scenes feel contrived in the most pedestrian of manners.

Yet while the characters could hardly be described as deep or complex (the film would have been better if there were less individuals who were more drawn out), they nevertheless feel as though they represent an immensely broad range of people who were affected by the film’s tragic events. The cutting between storylines shows the state of the era across generations and social classes. This is not exactly done subtly (in some instances parallels are pathetically obvious) but that does not take away from its effectiveness. The situations in the film tend to be not only entertaining but also feel appropriate to the period and the mood of the film.

The atmosphere built is a truly nostalgic one, and in the best of ways at that. A time often reminisced about but seldom recaptured is built not only in the film’s mood but also in Patti Podesta’s production design and Julie Weiss’ costumes. The soundtrack used is not exactly creative but is nevertheless immensely enjoyable to listen to and appropriate to the period; it also thankfully gives us a break from Mark Isham’s score. The viewer feels the fear – and the hope – experienced at the time.

The best parts of “Bobby” are the ones which integrate archive footage of Kennedy himself (which Estevez ironically did not direct). When woven into the larger atmosphere of the film (Richard Chew deserves immense praise for his work here), an aura of fear and hope is created onscreen. And the scope of the tragedy is truly felt for those who did not experience it at the time (if the final moments of the film are not as well realized as well as they should be).

All in all, “Bobby” is a film that could have been great in the hands of a better filmmaker. But it’s doubtful that another filmmaker would have had the passion for the project that Estevez clearly does. This is certainly not a great film. It might not even be a good one. But it’s still an entertaining, thought-provoking and sincere homage to its subject. I’m sure Estevez is proud of it. It’s a fine accomplishment for him.


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