An Appreciation of a Movie You Probably Didn’t See – Bobby

Back in the mid-1980’s, if someone would have asked me what my favorite films were, I would have put “Repo Man” on my top ten list. It was a quirky little film about a young guy in an odd profession of repossessing autos. There were a lot of really great things going for this film produced by former Monkees singer Michael Nesmith, starring a young actor by the name of Emilio Estevez. It had UFOs, Harry Dean Stanton, generic product placements, and one of the best soundtracks to ever utilize the type of punk rock music I was listening to back then. I really loved that movie.

Fast forward some twenty years later, and Emilio Estevez has written and directed a fine motion picture on on his own. It’s an ambitious little film about the type of people that might have been working at the Ambassador Hotel on the night that Senator Bobby Kennedy was shot on June 4, 1968. This is a story of many different individuals, each with their own personal ambitions, and how one event changed their lives forever.

Anyone that was alive in the United States during this tragedy has their own memory of the night this happened. For me, I was a very young boy that was trying to find my gears in a new elementary school, having moved to California from the east coast as a military brat without any serious roots. I remember being sad, but not necessarily surprised when I heard the news. It was another “dead Kennedy,” as America was denied a chance to have another Kennedy for president.

I know this film has a lot of personal signficance for writer-director Emilio Estevez. His father, Martin Sheen, was involved with with the Robert Kennedy campaign, and a six-year old Emilio was the one who ran upstairs to tell his father what had happened. For many years, Emilio struggled to create this film, fighting writers’s block, and a lack of support from Hollywood studio that didn’t see any value in a film centered around one person without necessarily focusing on that person’s own lifestory. In fact, in this movie, there is no one actor that actually plays Robert Kennedy, as he is represented by archival newsclips and audiobites.

As someone that has been struggling my own ambitious film about an iconic force in American pop culture, it’s a challenge I can certainly relate to. Watching the interviews with Emilio Estevez on the Tonight Show, and reading various articles, including one particularly informative article at CTV, I empathized with what he was going through. Sometimes, one’s brilliant ideas aren’t always embraced by those in power, and it takes a lot of work to get things off the ground. Lucky for Emilio, he’s got a lot of friends in the entertainment industry, and there’s a lot very talented people that worked on this project.

For unknowns like myself, it’s an even bigger struggle to produce an ambitious motion picture.

As I mentioned in previous postings at this webpage, this film does indeed have a “LOUIE LOUIE” moment. Demi Moore plays a washed-up lounge singer struggling with her alcoholic demons. In her one musical performance in this movie, she is the opening act for Senator Robert Kennedy, singing LOUIE LOUIE at the ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel, doing a remarkable job of channeling the spirit of Julie London. Up until this point, most of the music in this movie is the music you would likely hear in 1968- Stevie Wonder, the Moody Blues, the Temptations, and other musicians from that era. After “LOUIE LOUIE,” the film shifts into overdrive with a new song “Never Gonna Break My Faith” sung by Aretha Franklin and Mary J. Blige, and a stronger focus on the actual words and actions of Robert Kennedy, leading up to the pivotal moment in the kitchen area of the Ambassador where the Senator was assassinated.

For someone unfamiliar with Robert Kennedy, the last quarter of the film provides a concise showcase of his speeches, demonstrating his ability to inspire others with visions of a better democracy for the citizens of America. As other reviews have stated, “Bobby” is an unabashedly nostalgic film, and a progressive vision at that.

Despite the efforts to market this film to the masses, it has not performed as well at the box office. After 2 weeks, it ended it’s run at my favorite movie theater in San Jose, the 10th largest city in America. Perhaps like many other films that didn’t do as well during it’s initial run, such as “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “This Is Spinal Tap”, and even “Citizen Kane”, “Bobby” may find greater success in the DVD market. This is a film well worth seeing, and I congratulate Emilio Estevez for following his visions.

For more information, be sure to check out:

Bobby-the-movie.com site

Robert F. Kennedy Memorial site (with lots of speeches)

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