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It's 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel. Virginia Fallon, an alcoholic, fading star, is currently booked in the hotel's nightclub and trying to drown out her fears of growing old while her manager/husband struggles with her drunken outbursts and his own sense of impotence. Miriam, a local hairdresser, does the star's hair and doles out advice on a regular basis, but doesn't have any for herself when she finds out that her husband, Paul, manager of the Ambassador, is having an affair with one of the hotel telephone operators.
Paul's food and beverage manager, Timmons, is a racist who regularly overworks his Hispanic and black staff. One man in that group is José, who has to give up going to a Dodgers game with his father because he has to work a double shift. And let's not leave out Fisher, the stoner who sells drugs out of his hotel room.
These are a few of the often random-feeling stories that weave in and around the Los Angeles hotel during the 24 hours leading up to the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
Troubled by his short-time girl's decision to marry him just so he doesn't have to ship out to Vietnam, William affirms the deep value of marriage by questioning the choice. "I can't help feeling like I'm taking something away from you," he says. "This is something sacred. You should only do this one time."
Similarly, when asked about his strained marriage, Virginia's husband explains: "Real men stay. They fight the good fight." And when an older couple discuss their relationship, depression and their struggle with money and "things," the husband remarks, "You're more than the shoes on your feet or the dress on your back. ... I don't want to lose us."
Even though José wants to take his dad to a baseball game, he makes the responsible choice to keep his job and gives the tickets to a friend.
When Bobby Kennedy is shot, José cradles his head and puts a string of rosary beads in his hand. Finding himself in a chapel, William says, "I realized I haven't prayed in a long time." Diane agrees to pray with him and asks, "Do you really think that our prayers get answered?" He responds that he thinks they do sometimes. And that when they do, it's a miracle. A young girl asks her friend to pray that she gets a new job.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Fisher quizzes two Kennedy campaigners about why they want to get high. They're not sure how to answer, so the drug dealer says, "It's all a way of getting closer to God." After he convinces the two to take LSD, he hands them the drug-laced sugar cubes and asks, "Are you ready to have a personal relationship with God?"
While on LSD, one of the campaigners strips and squats in a cat's litter box. The scene isn't very "sexual," but he is certainly nude. We also see him fully naked from the rear while he stands in front of his closet.
When the hotel telephone operator meets up with Paul, he sticks his hand down the front of her dress and pulls her into the room. Later, the buxom girl is dressed in a skimpy bra and panties as she puts on her dress. Paul sits naked (from the waist up) on the bed.
As for Diane and William, they're also seen in a room alone. She unbuttons his shirt and pulls him to the bed. Virginia wears several low-cut outfits and a very low-cut nightgown. Drunk, she tells Miriam, "We're all whores, just some of us get paid." Two young men argue as to whether or not Anne Bancroft really showed her breasts in a film.
During the climactic scene in the hotel kitchen, several people are shot. While one man dies in a pool of blood with a bullet in the head, several others grasp bleeding gunshot wounds on their bodies. In the same violent vein but with a little less gore, we see quick sequences of war in Vietnam (bombs dropping, soldiers shooting and charging with bayonets) and scenes of protest in the U.S. Some protestors have bloodied brows and we see dead soldiers carried off on stretchers.
When Paul finds out that Timmons told his wife about his affair, he punches him in the mouth. And during their acid trip, the guys start throwing things out an upper-story window. A television set crashes down in front of someone.
Crude or Profane Language
About 10 uses of the f-word are combined with more than a half-dozen s-words. There are at least 20 other profanities (including "h---," "d--n," "a--"and "b--ch"). Racist language, including the n-word, is used several times in addition to a handful of misuses of God's name.
Drug and Alcohol Content
When the two campaigners take LSD, we see their hallucinations. (They watch war scenes in an open closet, play tennis in suits and ties, and argue with an orange.) Virginia drinks martinis and large glasses of scotch. And the camera spies her passed out on the bed in a nightgown with an open alcohol bottle on her nightstand. Miriam cries and drinks a martini after hearing of her husband's infidelity. Men and women smoke repeatedly.
The campaigners sit in the hotel restaurant, coming down from their high. A waitress approaches them and they get into a conversation. They're surprised that she knows so much about LSD. She asks, "You think L.A. is the only place that people drop acid?" An older man talks to his friend after they share a drink, crudely saying, "Thanks for the scotch. Makes me feel like I still have a pair."
Other Negative Elements
Back when I was called Bobby, I sat on the floor at my father's knee and watched a televised speech of a certain Senator from New York. Bobby Kennedy's words and ideals rang with passion and truthfulness in my young ears. And even though I was well shy of voting age and from a family that was politically right of center, I was ready to go door to door for the man, then and there ... if my mom would've let me.
I looked for that kind of fervor in Emilio Estevez's Bobby—a Robert Altman-style blend of disjointed stories that all cross at one crucial moment in a hotel kitchen pantry. And I did see glimpses of it. Mainly in real-life footage of the Senator that's creatively spliced into the soundstage action. But the movie's rambling, purposeless storylines and stereotypical characters (the angry black man, the aging celebrity, the racist boss) ultimately disappoint. Add in some totally unnecessary drug use and foul language, with a lot of clichéd and plastic dialogue ("I'm just another sister trying to make it in the world." "No, you're more than that"), and the whole thing comes across like a freshman politician's first crack at writing his own speeches.
Bobby Kennedy's story is little more than a backdrop, here, for characters to stand in front of and grandstand political hot-button issues (from anger over the war to black disenfranchisement to, yes, even hanging chads). Bobby ends with a lengthy clip from one of Senator Kennedy's speeches that urges us to heal our nation, bind up our wounds and "become in our hearts, brothers and countrymen once more." And it alone seemed enough to stir the audience and communicate what the rest of the film fails to.
Before the movie's screening, a gentleman at the theater told me of how he had bicycled across town when he was 16 so that he could see the promising candidate. "It was two days before this all happened," he said. "Bobby's story needs to be told." I agreed with him. And then, about two hours later, I thought, maybe, someday, it will be.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
William H. Macy as Paul Ebbers; Sharon Stone as Miriam Ebbers; Emilio Estevez as Tim Fallon; Demi Moore as Virginia Fallon; Laurence Fishburne as Edward Robinson; Helen Hunt as Samantha; Anthony Hopkins as John Casey; Harry Belafonte as Nelson; Heather Graham as Angela; Joshua Jackson as Wade Buckley; Ashton Kutcher as Fisher; Lindsay Lohan as Diane; Martin Sheen as Jack Stevens; Christian Slater as Timmons; Elijah Wood as William Avary
Emilio Estevez ( The Way)