Filmmakers go overboard all the time, but none more than Oliver Stone. When Stone released JFK in 1991, it was obvious that he was pulling from a biased idealism, but he wasn't necessarily fibbing either. The cumulative effect of Stone's film was investigative fervor; even if you didn't believe the bulk of what was being given, you had to be shocked by a few of his points. The film was about looking back, but it was also about the hushed panic of the Kennedy assassination and the rest of the '60s. So, maybe going overboard was important to what Stone was after.
You won't find any sort of rabblerousing or sense of time in Emilio Estevez's Bobby, his account of the people that were in attendance when Robert F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel. Estevez tosses together close to two dozen major characters and storylines along with footage of RFK campaigning against racism, America's poverty, and unlawful McCarthy tactics. The stories run the gamut from a young couple (Elijah Wood and Lindsay Lohan) getting hitched to keep the groom out of the war to an alcoholic diva (Demi Moore) and her forgotten husband (Estevez himself) to a philandering hotel manager (William H. Macy) who must keep his affair with a switchboard operator (Heather Graham) from his wife (Sharon Stone) and from an infuriated ex-employee (Christian Slater). There's also a pack of poll campaigners (Nick Cannon, Joshua Jackson, Shia Labeouf, and Brian Geraghty) who must deal with an acid freak out facilitated by a hippie (Ashton Kutcher), a pushy Czech journalist (Svetlana Metkina), and a flirty waitress at the hotel restaurant (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Sounds like the makings of an ensemble comedy, no?
Estevez's lofty ambitions stride to use the Ambassador and its guests as a mirror to the culturally diverse and often volatile problems of the time period. The Red Scare, Vietnam, racism, and plenty of social diseases are served up in a seemingly never-ending string of self-important dialogues and monologues. Laurence Fishburne uses his freshly baked berry cobbler to describe racism while Martin Sheen and Helen Hunt, in the film's oddest and most disposable pairing, reconcile a hollow marriage after Hunt simply asks what first lady she looks like.
Bobby has so many storylines that it becomes near impossible to give a flip about any particular one. Lohan and Wood's marriage of convenience blooms into a marriage of passion without a hint of struggle or forethought and the way that Moore attempts to build empathy is shockingly vacuous.
If it was Estevez's charge to make the hotel a microcosm of the world, there's a severe lack of atmosphere in the way he shoots the infamous auberge. There's no use of space to convey the stature of the hotel, which becomes integral to Anthony Hopkins' ramblings as a retired employee of the Ambassador. If the film has a heart, it lies in Freddy Rodriguez's lowly busboy who struggles to watch or listen to Don Drysdale's 55th scoreless inning, which occurred the same day as the RFK shooting. Estevez blithely strives for integrity by playing Kennedy's harrowing "Menace of Mindless Violence" speech that he gave in Cleveland six months prior to his assassination over the ravaged, tearful faces of the cast as an ambulance takes Kennedy away. It's too little, too late and registers false when compared to what Kennedy was actually talking about in the speech. Talk about going overboard.
You're all movie stars. All of you.