by Rob DiCristino
June 4, 1968. Today, Democrats in California will cast primary votes for their presidential candidate. Among the leading hopefuls is U.S. senator and former attorney general Robert F. Kennedy, whose platform of expanded civil rights, greater economic opportunity for the working class, and an end to the unpopular Vietnam War has inspired new optimism and energy in a generation of young people whose voices have been lost, trampled on, and ignored. At the Los Angeles Ambassador Hotel (Kennedy’s California headquarters), preparations are being made for a victory speech. Campaign staffers Wade and Dwayne (Joshua Jackson and Nick Cannon) supervise the venue. Singer Virginia Fallon (Demi Moore) rehearses her introduction. Hotel managers Paul Ebbers (William H. Macy) and Daryl Timmons (Christian Slater) brace for a long night. Meanwhile, retired doorman John Casey (Anthony Hopkins) and his friend Nelson (Harry Belafonte) — both reluctant to leave their familiar posts in the hotel lobby — share stories about The Old Days. In the kitchen, busboy José Rojas (Freddy Rodriguez) is at a crossroads: will he work his mandated double shift or leave early to see Don Drysdale pitch his sixth straight shutout for the Dodgers?
Nashville and Grand Hotel (the latter of which is directly referenced), Bobby reinforces the power of hope in the face of grave despair.
Bobby’s narrative is far from propulsive, though, and most of these plot threads — some only two or three scenes long at the most — are quickly laid to rest in a hopeful montage of reconciliation coupled with the senator’s arrival. It’s a bit of a cheat, sure, but these small pieces were always meant to be part of a larger whole, and their resolution is ultimately necessary in order to make room for what comes next. Bobby is more a tone piece than anything else, an effort to capture the tenor of a place and time when American culture was teetering on (and would ultimately fall off) a perilous edge.
“This is the breaking of a man's spirit by denying him the chance to stand as a father and as a man among other men, and this too afflicts us all,” Kennedy said in the wake of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, just two months before his own. “We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of all.” Estevez lays snippets of this speech over footage of Bobby on the ground, on a stretcher, and finally in an ambulance. He lays it over footage of Cannon’s Dwayne (styled purposely after Malcolm X) throwing chairs and sobbing in anger. “No one left but Bobby,” he insisted earlier in the film. “No one.” But we die and we are reborn. We lose and we play again. No matter the cost, no matter the loss, someone somewhere is carrying on. Bobby is nowhere close to a great movie. It’s cheesy and overwrought. It’s melodramatic and naive. But it’s also earnest and innocent; it believes what it’s saying, and it wants us to listen. For that, it remains engaging and re-watchable. For that, it makes me think of my own Bobby — my son, who celebrates his third birthday today. I wrote this for him. I want him to know that I believe in him, that he changed my life, and that no matter what, he will find his own advancement in the advancement of all.
Break an angel’s wings
But you're never gonna break
You're never gonna break my faith