Tuesday, 10 June 2008

DVD: Bobby

Lowdown: Every American was affected by the killing of Bobby Kennedy.
First there was Magnolia. A film that is made of a collection of unrelated stories joined in their climax by some relatively low level commonality. I liked Magnolia; in its year (1999), I thought it was the best of the crop.
Magnolia copycats started popping up like mushrooms after the rain. The most notable of the imitations was Crash, which went on to win the Oscars because its year (2004) failed to offer it stiff competition.
And now comes Bobby.
Bobby's entire plot takes place inside the hotel in which Bobby Kennedy was shot during the last few days before he was shot. It follows a multitude of stories telling us about a variety of Americans visiting/working at the hotel and their lives while emphasizing how these lives were affected by the Kennedy promise and later how their hopes were shattered with Kennedy's death.
In no particular order, the stories include the tale of a young black supporter of the Kennedy campaign for presidential election; two other supporters who focus on taking drugs instead of supporting the campaign; a female singer at the end of her career who refuses to acknowledge the end is coming; the hotel's doorman and his chess adventures; the hotel manager, his wife and his love affair; a young couple about to get married only so the guy won't be sent to Vietnam; an older couple where the wife needs to shop in order to feel vital; a Mexican hotel kitchen employee forced to work a second shift despite having extra curricular plans; and many many more. It is unclear how authentic the stories are; the end credits say some was real and some was not but adds that the doorman was real.
Just as the Bobby's stories are numerous so is the cast, featuring such a lengthy list of first class Hollywood stars I will name but a few: Uncle Anthony Hopkins, Lawrence Fishburne, Heather Graham, Helen Hunt, William Macy, Martin Sheen, Demi Moore, Christian Slater, and Sharon Stone.
The problem with the Magnolia formula, the way it is implemented in Bobby, is that it's all too predictable. Since you know the story of Bobby Kennedy you can see through the film and sort of smell where it would take you. That said, the formula works and you never feel like Bobby is boring. What you do feel, after watching Bobby, is contempt towards the stupid Americans that managed to squander the excellent chance offered by Kennedy and instead ended up with the likes of Bush. It is pretty clear that in the eyes of Emilio Estevez, the unlikely director of Bobby, Bush represents the alter ego of Kennedy, and it is also clear which of the two he would have preferred to see. Just as it is obvious where Estevez would have liked to be it is also obvious what his lengthy list of stars want, otherwise one cannot explain this lineup wasted on a film that, while good, is not exactly stellar.
The interesting question is just how f*cked up Americans are. How bad do you need to be to ignore the plight of the environment, the poor and the minorities? The sad answer is that all countries are messed up to one extent or another and that the USA is far from being unique in this department. However, there are a few qualities to the USA that render it a standout amongst the undistinguished crowd: First, its gun laws mean that way too many idiots can put their hands on guns; and second, while other countries fell victim to pathetic leaders, none fell so low as Bush from as high as the USA once stood.
Memorable scene: The climax involving the shooting which ties up the various stories. It's the sort of scene that, given all the buildup, leaves you breathless.
Technical assessment: The sound is nothing special and the picture is way to red in yet another attempt to give a film that good old sixties look. The music soundtrack is good, though.
Overall: A fine effort but not a particularly memorable one. 3 out of 5 stars.

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