In the life, legacy, and death of Robert F. Kennedy, actor/director/son-of-Martin-Sheen Emilio Estevez has the ultimate American story right at his fingertips. From Kennedy's birth into a family of untold affluence, to his political rise under his brother's shadow, to his reemergence in the mid-'60s as the last great hope for civil rights and American liberalism, to his assassination on the eve of victory, Bobby's story is compelling and poignant—and exactly the kind of message America needs right now.
Unfortunately, that's not the film Estevez made.
Instead, we're presented with Bobby, a sprawling ensemble piece, obviously attempting to emulate multi-story films like Robert Altman's Short Cuts and the Oscar-winning Crash. The cast is enormous and well known—Demi Moore, Sheen, Anthony Hopkins, Harry Belafonte, William H. Macy, Heather Graham, Frodo Baggins, Lindsay Lohan, Ashton Kutcher(!). What ties all the disparate stories together is the Ambassador Hotel, where the characters' lives cross on June 4, 1968, the day of the California primary. Each of their actions intertwine—sometimes unbelievably—leading to Kennedy's assassination.
Estevez, though, is no Altman, and none of the individual stories carry much weight. In fact, several full storylines could easily have been cut, including a howlingly stupid subplot in which hippie Ashton Kutcher sells drugs to two young campaign staffers and they all go on an LSD freak out. Worse, every single scene is filled with overwrought dramatic personal revelations—Estevez never wants the audience to forget that this is the late '60s, and America is about to lose its innocence.
The final scene of the film makes Estevez's ill-advised choice of focus all the more apparent. Audio from Kennedy's acceptance speech plays over scenes of the carnage of his assassination—and I started choking up like a baby. Given such powerful material, it's astonishing that Estevez would instead make a film that revolves around people we simply care nothing about.