Friday, November 24, 2006

Review of movie I haven't seen: Bobby

I continue to feel more motivation to review movies that I have not seen than those that I have. Although I have seen a variety of films recently--The Queen, The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond, Jules et Jim, Network (again)--I only want to review Bobby, the movie about the second most famous Kennedy (or maybe third or fourth). Actually, Bobby is less about Robert F. Kennedy, JFK's brother and once U.S. Attorney General, than it is about the mood of the country when RFK was assassinated in 1968.

Though I am admittedly curious to see this movie, a few of its attributes worry me. First of all, "directed by Emilio Estevez" is not particularly encouraging. The Post says Estevez is "best known" as one of the "Brat Pack" actors, but among members of my generation, it's much worse: he's Coach Gordon Bombay of The Mighty Ducks and D2. He has said, "Quack, quack, quack, Mr. Duckworth!" in a movie. He is a poor man's Charlie Sheen (who happens to be his brother). Just to clarify, his dad is Martin Sheen, and he had to play a hockey coach in a stupid (but admittedly hilarious) kids movie!

Secondly, the cast aims to be an exciting ensemble and as such includes one-note actors like Helen Hunt, Lindsay Lohan, Ashton Kutcher, and Heather Graham. A film that aims to create an aura around a consequential historical figure totally does itself in if it casts Ashton Kutcher in any role, even as an extra. As for Heather Graham, I was not aware that she was still around, but she has the honor of being my least favorite actress of all time. Her over-acting ditz schtick made the sequel to Austin Powers exponentially worse than it already was, and she looks like an albino bug.

Finally, and most importantly, from all accounts, Bobby is based upon the premise that Bobby Kennedy was a good guy. That is not to say that the film is incorrect to portray him as a figure who inspired, because he did, especially in the mounting turbulence of 1968, but it adds nothing new to the popular historical picture of Bobby Kennedy, which, as tends to be the case with historical figures, is not a very multi-faceted picture. To his credit, he visited Appalachia to bring attention to the plight of the impoverished, and he became a voice of calm in the early throes of instability in Vietnam, but he was also the legislative aide to Joseph McCarthy during the opportunistic witchhunts of the late 1940s and the early 1950s, and he was, by all accounts, a ruthless operative bent on enforcing loyalty to himself and his brother. He also gave written approval to the FBI to wiretap Martin Luther King, Jr., who the discredited J. Edgar Hoover suspected as a Communist, though in fairness, Kennedy also leant support to the enforcement of Brown v. Board of Education and worked hard to desegregate the government. I can certainly see how it would be interesting for a film to explore how a U.S. politician impacted the American people--I often wonder how consequential political figures are upon peoples' day-to-day experiences--but the portrayal of this oft-recounted historical moment risks bringing nothing new to the table.

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