Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

"Estevez uses Bobby’s words too much, but you can’t blame him, because Kennedy’s compassion and sympathy for the underprivileged shines."

There is a rumour around town that Marty’s lad Emilio has made a movie about the assassination of Robert Kennedy, and it’s good. Wrong on the first; right on the second, which leaves… a movie about the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles, the people who stay there, the people who work there, an ensemble piece that runs effortlessly for two hours, thanks to a fine script (Emilio again) and excellent acting from stars in cameo roles. Afterwards comes the Chinese takeaway affect – still hungry after all that time.

Bobby is seen in TV archive footage, making speeches, pressing flesh, in those innocent days when a terrorist was a freedom fighter in some dusty outpost on the other side of the world and security was a word used by insurance salesmen. Bobby’s brother and Mr King had already been gunned down in broad daylight, but not, it was assumed, by religious fundamentalists with foreign accents.

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It is the period of the primaries, 1968, and Bobby seeks election as the Democrat candidate to supersede Lyndon Johnson. A rally is planned at the Ambassador, with a high dollar dinner beforehand, during which the Californian results will be announced. Everyone on his team, the dedicated Camelot groupies and young career politicos, are in full flap mode. Another night, another cheerathon. Next week, the GOP?

Meanwhile, let’s meet… the Mexican busboy (Freddy Rodriguez) who has to work a double shift and miss the ball game, in which a famous pitcher is going to break a record; the retired doorman (Anthony Hopkins) who keeps coming back for old times sake to shoot the breeze with his good friend Nelson (Harry Belafonte) and beat him at chess – again; the hotel manager (William H Macy) who is playing away with one of the telephonists (Heather Graham); his wife (Sharon Stone) who runs the beauty parlour and has to listen to the self-obsessed wafflings of the aging singer (Demi Moore) who headlines the entertainment that night; the singer's ex-drummer husband (Emilio Estevez) who is treated like an employee and dog walker by his alcoholic wife; the young girl (Lindsay Lohan) who is marrying a childhood friend (Elijah Wood) so that he won’t be drafted to Vietnam; the recovering depressive (Martin Sheen) with his lovely, insecure wife (Helen Hunt) who has come to support the candidate; the kitchen manager (Christian Slater) who has a bad attitude towards his Latino staff; the head chef (Laurence Fishburne) who issues wise homilies on life and lunch, and the far out hippie (Ashton Kutcher) who dispenses heaven on a sugar cube.

All these people have stories. You touch the hem of their lives and move on. Finally, the speeches; finally the moment; rapturous applause. “The next president of the United States” makes his way through the crowded kitchens towards the back door when a fresh faced kid points a pistol at him and shoots. Chaos, panic, more bullets fly. There are injuries; there are tears; the senator dies in hospital the next day.

It is not about him. It is about what he might have been, what he might have done for his country, and, of course, making the film now is significant. Estevez uses Bobby’s words too much, but you can’t blame him, because Kennedy’s compassion and sympathy for the underprivileged shines like a beacon in the dungeon dark of Guantanamo’s terrible legacy.

Reviewed on: 25 Jan 2007
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Who was in the hotel on the night that Robert Kennedy was shot?
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Chris ***1/2

Director: Emilio Estevez

Writer: Emilio Estevez

Starring: William H Macy, Freddy Rodriguez, Sharon Stone, Helen Hunt, Martin Sheen, Demi Moore, Christian Slater, Anthony Hopkins, Lindsay Lohan, Elijah Wood, Heather Graham, Emilio Estevez, Laurence Fishburne, Ashton Kutcher, Harry Belafonte, Joshua Jackson, Joy Bryant, Jacob Vargas, Shia LaBeouf, Brian Geraghty, Svetlana Metkina, Nick Cannon

Year: 2006

Runtime: 120 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


London 2006

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