» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum

December 14, 2006
Rating: 8.5/10

The publicity swirling around Emilio Estevez's dramatic tribute to Robert Kennedy has been more negative than positive, most painting the film as a disjointed, inaccurate and idealistic portrayal of the late liberal Senator from Massachusetts' demise. At best the reviews can be tallied as mixed, at worst the film has been panned, since its November 17th release in New York and Los Angeles, as an incongruent and overly altruistic piece, dredging up memories of a more innocent and na´ve era when fashions were formal, drugs were still taboo, and cigarette smoking was ubiquitous. But, frankly, those critiques are lazy; it is too easy to dismiss the deeper meaning of the film by over-examining the accuracy of the stereotypical sixties backdrop in lieu of addressing the emotional and life changing events it depicts.

What is strikingly similar and relevant to today's world in Bobby is the nature of a war-weary American public and a political climate on the brink of liberal revival, the brewing of a desire to return to the re-emancipation of Camelot. Estevez assembles a highly recognizable all-star cast, which for some distracts from the believability of his characters, but for others serves as an artistic rebirth for some of Hollywood's most brilliant specialists, many of whom can be seen reworking, revamping and further honing and refining their craft. One of the major accomplishments of Bobby is the way Estevez (the actor/director- who at 44 was only six years old when Kennedy was assassinated) connects and weaves a patchwork of seemingly unrelated characters together; guests, employees, and conventioneers at Los Angeles' now infamous Ambassador Hotel brought together by one of America's most defining moments.

The list of actors (exhale slowly) includes: Sir Anthony Hopkins (as a reminiscing retired hotel doorman), William H. Macy (as an unfaithful pro-minority hospitality manager), Sharon Stone (as Macy's betrayed wife and hotel beautician), Laurence Fishburne (as a down home non-violent African-American head chef), Martin Sheen and Helen Hunt (as a pair of uptight married midlife-crises socialites), Christian Slater (as a racist epithetic food and beverage manager), Aston Kutcher (a pot-smoking, acid-dosing drug dealer), Elijah Wood and Lindsay Lohan (as a reluctant, draft-dodging, and eloping young couple) and Demi Moore (as an abrasive almost over the hill lounge singer), who, past her self-loathing intoxicated prime, has tied the knot with Emilio Estevez (the reluctantly tolerant hubby of an evasive alcoholic starlet). Lesser known actors Joshua Jackson (okay, he was Pacey in "Dawson's Creek"), Nick Cannon and Shia LaBeouf play Kennedy organizers and volunteers torn between the responsibilities of canvassing their districts, facilitating press interviews and turning on, tuning in and dropping out.

The unique cross section of flowering diversity in late 1960's America cultural figures is rounded out by feature film newcomer Freddy Rodriguez (of HBO's "Six Feet Under"), who gives an outstanding performance as an obedient Latino bus boy forced to relinquish a pair of coveted Dodger tickets on the very night that legendary pitcher Don Drysdale is to break the modern MLB record for most consecutive scoreless innings pitched. In addition to stellar performances by Hopkins and Macy, it is the unpredictable triangular relationship between Rodriguez's character, "Jose," his work buddy Jacob Vargus ("Miguel") and Fishburne's "chef Edward" that merits the most tension and delivery, one perhaps worthy of a best supporting actor Oscar nomination. Still, the scrawled metaphor written by the chef on the kitchen wall declaring Jose as "the once and future king" is overstating a forced parallel at best. And yet, out of this mishmash of main course special personalities and curiously divergent storyline, Estevez (as director, not actor) illustrates the charismatic charm and sincerity of candidate Kennedy effectively, while at the same time traversing the entrenched ethnic and class-based boundaries that stifled the imagination and inspiration of a nation mired in "staying the course" in Vietnam. Yeah, that's another parallel.

Leading to the film's ultimate climax we are witness to more than an amazing range of serendipitous consequences and events and, through the process, are left feeling shocked and understandably dismayed. To Estevez's further credit, he succeeds at placing the moviegoer in a proper historic and cultural context. The film's conclusion, and epilogue-style slide show ending, is a fitting tribute to a man who, by all counts, might have been an even a greater leader than his brother. In a year of tired themes that found otherwise reliable critics hung up on the likes of pseudo-eco-groovy sing along animated specials (Happy Feet) and feigned Disney-pop revisionist iconic views of historical barbarism (Pirates 2, Dead man's Chest, a.k.a. Jack Sparrow flies the coup), Bobby deserves a shot at being a contender for best picture.

Estevez utilizes a nostalgic and Motown-centric soundtrack to augment the film's mood, dicing a Robert Altman-esque interconnected plot line with precision editing. As a result the former Young Gun manages to unravel the audience's collective consciousness and stir empathetic heartstrings, while at the same time confronting the need to acknowledge the tremendous loss of leadership and vacuous at the hand of Sirhan Sirhan. For cynics who may criticize the fact that Estevez has chosen to film a historical drama rather than a documentary, I would ask them to consider the fact that, rather than interpreting Robert Kennedy with a recognizable Hollywood actor, the title character is portrayed entirely through archival footage of his moving speeches and captivating photographic archives. To appreciate what a bold (and smart) move this was on Estevez' part, one need only watch Robert Dornhelm' 2003 Fox production RFK instead.

Even though the film's outcome is unavoidably self-evident, give the Repo-Man credit for ambitiously tackling a dark and unpleasant topic that spun an atomic superpower into chaos. Perhaps for our own sakes, despite any overlooked real life character flaws, we should always struggle to remember the legacy of any man or woman, be they liberal, conservative or other, who promises to wage a war on unbridled militarism, poverty, racism, corruption, unsafe working conditions, and environmental degradation, be they of one generation or another. Robert Kennedy, like Estevez, was a man on a mission.

Hugh Slesinger
A teacher, naturalist and eco-conscious real estate agent living in Occidental, California, Hugh Slesinger occasionally publishes his insights on life with LAS.

See other articles by Hugh Slesinger.



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