Bobby - DVD Review

'criticisms that focus on its patriotic nature are meaningless; this is about the democratic election process - if you can't get patriotic or passionate about that and think that others shouldn't either then what do you get passionate about?'

When Bobby first came out I remember it getting a few rather 'sniffy' reviews that didn't appear to reflect either its lofty ambitions or its early awards buzz. Having now caught up and seen the film I can fully appreciate where these reviews were coming from, if not the manner in which they expressed themselves. Bobby is at times a brilliant ensemble drama but is also an extremely frustrating piece, painting an incomplete portrait of both its entire cast of characters and the man the title suggests the film may be about.

Bobby's first problem may indeed be that it is not ostensibly the character piece suggested by its moniker (although, in all fairness, the DVD box says as much), Emilio Estevez instead choosing to tell the story of Robert F Kennedy's assassination by examining the lives of those present in the Ambassador Hotel that night. Throughout the film we are given glimpses of a couple marrying for convenience (Lindsay Lohan and Elijah Wood), a dangerous love triangle (William H Macy, Sharon Stone, Heather Graham) a retired doorman (Anthony Hopkins), two hotel waiters (Freddie Rodriguez and Jacob Vargas) and one of Kennedy's campaign managers (Joshua Jackson), not to mention many more besides.

The above roll-call immediately hints at one of Bobby's problems: it is far too broad. In a run time of just two hours, Estevez attacks too many interesting stories, foolhardy actions and blossoming love lives for any of them to ring true or make an impression. The Lohan/Wood story for example, certainly not aided by both leads apparently trying their best to look disinterested, is far too complex a love tale to be explained in the perhaps 10-15 minute screen time it receives. Neither character's feelings or emotions are given a proper airing meaning I genuinely couldn't care less where they were or what they were up to come the chaotic conclusion.

Whilst Estevez gives credence to 'serious' stories such as Lohan and Wood's he also muddles his tone completely with comic side-steps and caricatured cameos. Shia LaBeouf isn't bad as a lowly campaign lackey (with compatriot, The Hurt Locker's Brian Geraghty) but the majority of his screen time is spent in an acid-induced daze, the drug supplied to him by a hippie long-haired Ashton Kutcher. Laurence Fishburne is also here but only briefly as a philosophy-spouting chef that will have you wondering where Keanu Reeves and The Nebuchadnezzar crew are - presumably in one of the stories that got left on the cutting room floor.

That isn't to say that all of the film suffers from the same problems. Sharon Stone is unrecognisable as Macy's wife and turns in a really fantastic under-the-skin performance which was touching and memorable, ditto Estevez as the put-upon husband of starlet Demi Moore although again, rather ironically, the director doesn't give his own character enough time to develop. The film is nothing if not gripping, if only sometimes in a way similar to rubber-necking at a car crash, and criticisms that focus on its patriotic nature are meaningless; this is about the democratic election process - if you can't get patriotic or passionate about that and think that others shouldn't either then what do you get passionate about?

Criticisms too of the fact the film isn't about Kennedy are similarly trite and miss the point (it's OK to have a film centered around a character but not necessarily about that character) but Estevez again muddles his defence by including too much archive footage of Kennedy in his vitriolic heyday. If there is a director's cut version of this stashed away somewhere with an hour of extra footage then I want to see that film because whilst this is good, it doesn't feel like it's the finished article by a long way.




Look further...

'Estevez means well. But having your heart in the right place is no excuse for insipid ineptitude' - Rolling Stone (Peter Travers), 1/4

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