Twenty-two people become unwitting participants in a tragic and defining moment of the 1960’s in this period drama from actor and director Emilio Estevez. It’s early June in 1968, and the California presidential primary elections are occupying the minds of many in the Golden State, with Robert F. Kennedy in a close race against Eugene McCarthy and Hubert Humphrey. The Kennedy campaign staff has set up camp at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, while the staff and guests become observers as the brother of fallen president John F. Kennedy sets out to pick up where his sibling left off. Paul (William H. Macy) is the manager of the Ambassador, and his wife Miriam (Sharon Stone) is a hairdresser who runs the hotel’s beauty salon. Angela (Heather Graham) is a receptionist working the hotel’s switchboard who has been sleeping with Paul behind Miriam’s back. Timmons (Christian Slater) is in charge of the hotel’s restaurant and catering department, and makes no secret of his dislike of the African-Americans and Latinos under his employ. Miguel (Jacob Vargas) and Jose (Freddy Rodriguez) are two young Chicanos on the kitchen staff who have it in for Timmons, while Robinson (Laurence Fishburne) is an older black man who counsels them on dealing with their rage. Virginia Fallon (Demi Moore) sings in the hotel’s cocktail lounge and has a serious problem with alcohol; her husband Tim (Emilio Estevez) is a Kennedy supporter and also her manager, and he’s nearing the end of his rope in dealing with her problem. William (Elijah Wood) is a young man desperate to avoid being drafted and sent to Vietnam; Diane (Lindsay Lohan) is a pretty young woman dating William’s brother who agrees to marry him so William can avoid being drafted, though William is clearly infatuated with her while she considers this a marriage in name only. John Casey (Anthony Hopkins) is one of the owners of the Ambassador, and Nelson (Harry Belafonte) is an old friend who works at the hotel. And Jack (Martin Sheen) is a wealthy Kennedy campaign financier who is married to Samantha (Helen Hunt), an attractive but much younger woman. Bobby also features Joshua Jackson, Nick Cannon and Shia LaBeouf as young Kennedy campaign volunteers, while Ashton Kutcher, Joy Bryant, Kip Pardue and Mary Elizabeth Winstead also highlight the supporting cast.
According to the plotline published by the studio, “Bobby” is “The story of the assassination of U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy, on June 6th, 1968, which centers around 22 people who were at the Ambassador Hotel where he was killed.”The 22 characters chosen by writer, director, Estevez were probably selected to match the number of A and B-list actors vying for a part in this potentially moving story. Most of the back stories played by the 22 celebrities are superficial, disconnected tales of adultery, racism, growing old, and experimenting with LSD. The situations and dialog are equally weak, and do not contribute in the slightest to the horrific event they lead up to. For example, Anthony Hopkins and Harry Belafonte play two aging gentlemen who spend their time in the Ambassador Hotel lobby playing chess and sharing fading memories of their past. The actors involved cannot shed the blame for this scrambled story by claiming they only had cameo roles. They each had large enough parts that they should have been able to recognize a shallow screenplay. The last 30 minutes of the movie center around the actual time sequence of the events surrounding the treacherous and unthinkable assassination of the heir-apparent to the Presidency of the United States. But the first 1 1/2 hours are not worth the wait.