William H. Macy
Fatal shots silenced the sound of hands clapping on June 6th 1968, as Robert "Bobby" Kennedy was assassinated following a rousing campaign speech at the Ambassador Hotel, changing the course of American politics forever.
Or so Emilio Estevez would have us believe: and he makes a good case. Combining his childhood obsession with Bobby with an achingly all-star cast, this is a brave return to form, proving that he has firmly put his Bratpack days behind him. He still undertakes seriously cheesy projects, but at least he has learnt to pack a political punch.
Estevez claims that this is not an overtly political film, but utters in the same breath that Bobby's death represented the "day the music died in terms of the American political landscape". Rather than focus on the great what-if president himself, Estevez chooses to focus on the lives of 'ordinary folk' (read A-list celebs) going about their daily business in the Ambassador Hotel on that fateful day.
He attempts to make the Ambassador a microcosm for America at large, an undulating mass of cultural diversity. This diversity may be reductive at the best of times, but it does depict the hope that a great cross section of society placed in Bobby. From racism in the kitchen to despair amid the youth and the elderly alike, this is an interesting piece of societal dissection, what Estevez calls a "disaster movie of the heart".
It's not brilliant. Many of the characters descend into realms of cliché, and ironically it is the most disastrous and desperate of characters who manage to rescue the film. Anthony Hopkins plays the hotel's melancholic pre-owner - and he turns cheesy dialogue into a heart-aching performance. Props must be given to Demi Moore, who steps out of her comfort zone well - sadly her boyfriend (Ashton Kutcher) refuses to leave his, and his preposterously misplaced naked acidtrip scene ruined much of the films interesting social commentary.
Though the script is emotionally heavy, the overall political message and the air of disorder and disenchantment still ring true. The film's finale stunningly combines modern and archive footage with Bobby's own powerhouse speech, a speech that is affectingly apt even today.
When asked if it was controversial to make Bobby, a film about a loss of American innocence, in our current clime of political scepticism, Estevez retorts: "I am unapologetically optimistic and unapologetically idealistic. In this world of cynicism and people being resigned, it's the only way to be. We are better than the bar we set ourselves; we need to get out of the cesspool of politics we're all drinking from". With a severe lack of any political heroes like Bobby nowadays, even the overly emotional Estevez may become our new political inspiration. Heaven help us all.