R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Emilio Estevez
with Sharon Stone, William H Macy, Christian Slater, Lindsay Lohan, Elijah Wood, Freddy Rodríguez, Laurence Fishburne, Jacob Vargas, Martin Sheen, Helen Hunt, Emilio Estevez, Demi Moore, Shia LaBeouf, Brian Geraghty, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ashton Kutcher, Anthony Hopkins, Harry Belafonte, Joshua Jackson, Nick Cannon, Heather Graham, Joy Bryant, Svetlana Metkina, David Krumholtz
release US 17.Nov.06,
UK 26.Jan.07
06/US Weinstein 1h52

Wedding jitters: Lohan and Stone

estevez macy slater
wood rodriguez fishburne

London Film Fest

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Bobby Sprawling and fragmented, this multi-strand film comes together with a surprising punch in the end. Even with some random and irrelevant story threads, it's a powerfully astute picture of a time and place.

On the day of the California primary, 4 June 1968, there's a swirl of people in Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel, Bobby Kennedy's campaign headquarters. There's the hairdresser (Stone) married to the general manager (Macy) who's having a fling with a switchboard operator (Graham). A young woman (Lohan) is preparing to marry a friend (Wood) so he won't be sent to Vietnam. Kitchen workers (Rodriguez, Fishburne, Vargas, Slater) are grappling with racial issues. Campaign staffers (Jackson, Cannon, LaBeouf, Geraghty) are either working or dropping acid. And Bobby is the only hope left for a very troubled America.

Yes, this is the evening Kennedy was shot, and all of the stories converge decisively at that moment. Until then, it's like an episode of Hotel, with unconnected plots that don't always work. The most disposable are the two troubled couples (Sheen and Hunt, Estevez and Moore) and the retirees (Hopkins and Belafonte) playing chess in the lobby. Still, each story catches relevant truths about the period, as well as sharp echoes of the world 38 years later.

Performances are solid, making the most of the loaded dialog and situations (with the exception of Kutcher, badly miscast as a hippy dealer). Standouts are Stone and, surprisingly enough, Lohan. Both add raw emotional resonance to their complex characters and involving stories. Macy also registers strongly; in many ways he's the glue that holds the entire film together.

Where the film really comes to life is in Kennedy's own words, which are sprinkled through the film on background TVs. Archive footage provides vivid context, and the entire rambling concoction is smartly edited, leading up to the strikingly strong final sequence, followed by a montage of footage overlaid with Kennedy's powerfully prescient speech about violence in the wake of Martin Luther King's assassination two months earlier. In the end, Estevez wins us over with his cleverly referential script and his important, pointed closing statement against America's swaggering violence.

cert 15 themes, language, drugs 27.Oct.06 lff

What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr's cause has ever been stilled by an assassin's bullet....

Some look for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul....

When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies, to be met not with cooperation but with conquest; to be subjugated and mastered....

We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of others. We must admit in ourselves that our own children's future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge.

—Robert F Kennedy, 5 April 1968

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Bobby Agsmith, USA: 2/5 "Poor movie, not what I had hoped for at all, but Kennedy's eloquence and phenomenal ability to communicate ring throughout. What a politician, one can only imagine the state of this country had Kennedy's tragic death not occurred." (24.Nov.06)
© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall