The story of the assassination of U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who was shot in the early morning hours of June 5, 1968 in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California, and twenty-two people in the hotel, whose lives were never the same.
Tuesday, June 4, 1968: the California presidential primary. As day breaks Robert F. Kennedy arrives at the Ambassador Hotel; he'll campaign, then speak to supporters at midnight. To capture the texture of the late 1960s, we see vignettes at the hotel: a couple marries so he can avoid Vietnam, kitchen staff discuss race and baseball, a man cheats on his wife, another is fired for racism, a retired hotel doorman plays chess in the lobby with an old friend, a campaign strategist's wife needs a pair of black shoes, two campaign staff trip on LSD, a lounge singer is on the downhill slide. Through it all, we see and hear RFK calling for a better society and a better nation. Written by
During the one week the crew had at the Ambassador Hotel, Patti Podesta made what she called "emotional sketches" of the building, not so much focused on complete accuracy, as on mood and atmosphere. She also pried away as many discarded doors and accessories as she could, to add more authenticity to the sets that would later be created elsewhere. Other furniture items, such as the Ambassador's authentic lobby chairs, were purchased by the production at an auction held by the School Board. Since the building had already been remodelled since 1968, Podesta was further aided in re-creating the Ambassador Hotel by twenty minutes of raw CBS television footage from June 4, 1968, that Emilio Estevez had come across in his research. In another stroke of serendipity, Podesta also discovered that Costume Designer Julie Weiss' sister had been married in the Ambassador Hotel in the 1960s, and had a scrapbook filled with detailed pictures. Additional inspiration came from 1960s feature films filmed in the Ambassador Hotel, such as the classic movie The Graduate (1967). See more »
The Ambassador Hotel's lobby scene, in which John Casey and Nelson talk, shows Casey wearing a quartz watch. It was June 1968. The world's first commercial quartz wristwatch, the Seiko Astron, would only be introduced in December 1969. See more »
Stories of racism, infidelity, aging, the effects of the Vietnam War, drugs: Why RFK's death was so impactful
BOBBY as written and directed (and starring) Emilio Estevez is not simply a recreation of the fateful night June 6, 1968 when Bobby Kennedy was shot, though that event is meticulously dissected as the sun dawns on Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel on that day. This film is a series of vignettes of the lives of many people (22 examples shine) whose hope for a better future than that of a country undergoing disintegration on many levels were shattered. It is about 'little people', people with choices whose responses to the death of a hero is devastating.
Racism (Christian Slater vs Laurence Fishburne vs interaction with Freddy Rodríguez and Jacob Vargas); hippie/white collar drug abuse (Ashton Kutcher dealing LSD to Brian Geraghty and Shia LaBeouf, Demi Moore's alcoholism defeating her marriage to Emilio Estevez and career as a lounge singer); aging and the problems of 'useless old people' (Harry Belafonte and Anthony Hopkins); adultery (hotel manager William Macy married to beautician Sharon Stone yet having an affair with switchboard operator Heather Graham); marriages teetering on commercialism (Martin Sheen and Helen Hunt); young political aspirants basing futures on RFK (Joshua Jackson and Nick Cannon); and the extremes to which young men will go to avoid being sent to Vietnam (Elijah Wood and Lindsay Lohan) - these are the main characters we get to know as they prepare for the evening's party for RFK and then suffer the explosive effect of the shooting by Sirhan Sirhan (David Kobzantsev). The power of the film lies in the impact Bobby Kennedy had on all of these people who represent the rest of a nation.
Estevez wisely uses film footage from life to project the speech and presence of RFK: using an actor to depict him would have made the effect less sharp. But in the end, as it seems apparent from Estevez' script, the power comes from the messages in the voice-over of Kennedy's own speeches, words to offer hope and a chance for resolution of the many conflicts that threatened to destroy the US. Would that there were minds with such thoughts speaking today when a leader is so desperately needed! The film has flaws (it would be difficult for a two hour enactment of a well known yet partially fictionalized incident not to). But the message is pungent and clear: we MUST care for each other as a country and forgo the alienation that is so rampant. A very fine film for thought. Grady Harp
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