The name Kennedy is probably as close to "royalty" in the US as it can get, and it is of no surprise that the tragic events of the Kennedy brothers inspired movies to be made in their names. John F Kennedy, the 35th President of the USA, was assassinated in Dallas, Texas in 1963, and conspiracy theorists had a field day in suspecting there's more than meets the eye. I still remembered the day I watched Oliver Stone's JFK in the cinemas, and as a teen was captivated by the movie, which really went on and on and on with the stock archive footage of the shooting.
While some have dismissed the movie as propaganda, I thought Roger Donaldson's Thirteen Days was intriguing enough, highlighting perhaps JFK's defining moment in office in tackling of the Bay of Pigs / Cuban Missile Crisis. Also starring Kevin Costner (not in any Kennedy role), this movie had JFK's brother Robert (Bobby) Kennedy featured as well, as he was the Attorney General of the time, and together, with others, have orchestrated a favourable outcome to the crisis.
But alas, when Bobby was in the run-up for the US Presidency, he was unceremoniously gunned down in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles in 1968. Bobby the movie is set on that fateful day, so it must be cautioned that this is not a bio-pic, as it takes a broader look at the events of the day, and peeks into the dramatized lives of others around him who suffered collateral damage, in an era marred by steady violence and intolerance in society.
What will probably catch your eye in Bobby, is the huge ensemble cast. And I mean huge. Even at the half hour mark, there are prominent actors still popping up to be counted. Familiar names in the cast include big names, has-beens, recognizable faces from the 80s and 90s, and the starlets of today - Emilio Estevez, Laurence Fishburne, Heather Graham, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Hunt, Ashton Kutcher, Lindsay Lohan, William H Macy, Demi Moore, Freddy Rodriguez, Martin Sheen, Christian Slater, Sharon Stone, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Elijah Wood.
I would guess that Emilio Estevez might have had a difficult time in managing so many talents in this movie, written and directed by himself, and I was surprised at the end result - that it is a good movie, even though you'd know the outcome. Yes there are plenty of stars, and in effect each of them have their little individual story arcs to flesh their characters, although sometimes they do fall into their typecast, like Fishburne's character spouting philosophy ala his Matrix's Morpheus, or Heather Graham as the typical sexy blonde. Some story arcs are interesting, though nothing is too sophisticated, which takes off that certain shine of brilliance. Some arcs too are totally weird and probably there for the laugh factor, but on hindsight, it was a reflection of the sign of the times, of free love, drugs, rock and roll.
I thought it was neat that Estevez decided against casting Bobby, and instead chose to elevate his character through archive footage, and voiceovers using some of his speeches. You get to see the real Bobby, and get to hear his voice, as he delivers passionate thoughts about working together, peace and harmony, things and themes that still ring true even in today's context. I guess such is the universal appeal, and a small clue that you can use to imagine how wildly popular he was amongst the minority groups at the time.
The movie had an awesome soundtrack, and what took me by surprise was the inclusion of Simon and Garfunkel's The Sound of Silence. It was used as the song in the opening credits of The Graduate (one of my favourite films as well), and I thought it was one of the best opening sequences, and to hear it again in the context of Bobby, was just wow. The song at the end credits, written by Bryan Adams and performed by Aretha Franklin and Mary J Blige - Never Gonna Break My Faith, was pleasing as well, though it was nominated for the Golden Globes, but didn't cut it for the Academy. For movie buffs, you will also probably grin at the many movie related trivia and mentions in Bobby.
There are plenty of positive "what-ifs" in the movie, which seem to suggest that things would have been vastly different should the tragedy not happen, but that, sadly, will remain as questions of history. It's nominated for Best Picture at the Golden Globes, so that should suggest something on the pedigree of this movie. I'd recommend it for the star gazing as well, and do watch this soon as it's only playing at two GV cinemas.