Ambitious 'Bobby'

Friday, November 24, 2006

In "Bobby," Emilio Estevez's ambitious, uneven and deeply affecting drama about the day Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated, the director keeps the film's real subject on the margins of the story, instead conveying what the world looked and sounded and felt like the moment before it shattered. It's a terrific conceit, and an effective one with which Estevez evokes what Kennedy meant to his followers. His killing seemed to complete a grievous trilogy, one that signified the death not just of a man, but of the ideals of a generation.

In "Bobby," that generation is most effectively embodied by a character named Diane (Lindsay Lohan), who is planning to marry a boy she knows only vaguely to keep him from going to Vietnam. When she explains what she's doing to a manicurist played by Sharon Stone, the unspoken wisdom between the two women is palpable and quietly electrifying.

That's one of the best scenes in "Bobby," which begins with a false fire alarm at the Ambassador Hotel and follows the quotidian travels and travails of various guests and staff members throughout that day. Miguel (Jacob Vargas), a kitchen worker, has tickets to the Dodgers game later; the almost-washed-up singer Virginia Fallon (Demi Moore) sleeps off another drinking binge while her husband (Estevez) walks the dog and worries. The manicurist, Miriam, is married to the Ambassador's manager, Paul (William H. Macy), who's having an affair with a receptionist, Angela (Heather Graham).

"Bobby," even if it suffers from a few silly scenes, gets more right than it does wrong. Estevez's use of documentary Kennedy material is seamless and organic, allowing the audience to witness the extraordinary effect Kennedy had on crowds. And the choice to conclude "Bobby" by letting a Kennedy speech on nonviolence run in its entirety gathers boldness and meaning and moral momentum as it goes on. It's a brave, brilliant move.

-- Ann Hornaday

Bobby R, 111 minutes Contains profanity, drug content and a scene of violence. Area theaters.

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