On June 4, 1968, U.S. presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy was shot in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel, and later died in hospital. Bobby is the story of that day, and the people who were there.
It’s not so important that I summarize the characters and their stories for you. What you should know is that Bobby is one of those films that cuts between many plot lines that seem unrelated until the end, when an event brings them all together. In this case, we’re talking about 22 people at the…Ambassador Hotel, and the assassination that changed their lives forever.
The ensemble cast that brings these people to life on screen is the most star-studded in recent film history. We’ve got Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs), Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now), William H. Macy (Fargo), Sharon Stone (Basic Instinct), Christian Slater (True Romance), Helen Hunt (As Good As It Gets), Demi Moore (Ghost), Lawrence Fishburne (The Matrix), Ashton Kutcher (The Butterfly Effect), Joshua Jackson (Dawson’s Creek), Elijah Wood (The Lord of the Rings), Freddy Rodriguez (Six Feet Under), and the list goes on. Also on screen is Emilio Estevez (Young Guns), who wrote and directed the picture.
So obviously this isn’t a cast that gets in the way of a film’s success. The problem here is Estevez layers the sociopolitical issues of the day too heavily into the lives of his characters, who are really just living out a normal day, until the shooting. He gets particularly heavily handed with race issues, having cooks in the kitchen discuss racial problems like intellectuals in a graduate university classroom.
The day is saved, however, in the film’s final act. With the shooting, Bobby surges forward with a highly emotional climax that is both crushing and inspiring in its authenticity. Here the film’s main theme of the inspirational vision of RFK and the nation’s loss that day comes to full fruition, with a montage set to Never Gonna Break My Faith.
That song, sung by Aretha Franklin and Mary J. Blige, is certainly the musical highlight. But there’s more to be appreciated here, with a period soundtrack including Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and more. Also in the mix is a deft score by composer Mark Isham (A River Runs Through It), which supports the film’s weaker moments and enhances the stronger scenes.
Ultimately, Bobby is a bit too nostalgic, and a thematic stretch for a story about the little people. That said, you may forget all that in the film’s final 15 minutes. So, how’s the DVD?
Bobby is presented on one disc, in anamorphic widescreen. It looks great overall, with crisp picture and warm, natural colours. This beautiful transfer combined with Michael Barrett’s cinematography makes for a lot of special moments. On shot in particular, a night-time exterior of the Ambassador Hotel, made me stop and remark on the quality.
Audio is English-only, in 5.1 Dolby Digital format. The quality is top-notch, but the film sounds a bit messy overall, thanks to heavy ambient sound, whether it’s other characters’ voices or just the sounds of activity in areas surrounding the scenes. That’s more of a comment on the filmmakers’ choices, rather than on the audio presentation.
Bobby goes quality over quantity in this department, with just two featurettes and the film’s trailer.
Bobby: The Making of An American Epic runs about 30 minutes, and it’s a very good featurette. Both entertaining and informative, it covers Estevez’ creative journey, the incredible cast, the film’s music, and more. Well worth watching.
Eyewitness Accounts from the Ambassador Hotel is an interesting feature, and it runs about the same length. Here, six people who were there share their memories. One of them was even among the wounded, which is kinda cool. This one’s a bit dry, but still worth a look.
Bobby is a solid start for Estevez, but not without flaws. This DVD does it justice, though, with solid video and audio, and some entertaining special features. Recommended.
Special Features List
- Bobby: The Making of An American Epic
- Eyewitness Accounts from the Ambassador Hotel