A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although this drama might spark some good conversations with older kids, it's probably not all that likely to interest them. A nostalgic recollection of 1968, its ensemble cast and "social problems" theme have earned it comparisons to Crash. It culminates in a distressing reenactment of Robert Kennedy's assassination, incorporating archival footage as well as graphic images of other shooting victims and the chaos caused by the event. A brief sex scene alludes to an adulterous affair; a second sex scene represents young, idealistic romance. Frequent smoking and drinking throughout the film, plus drug use (one character appears naked during an LSD trip). Language includes several uses of "f--k," plus the "N" word and discussion of racism against black and Latino communities.
What's the story?
Despite its title, BOBBY isn't really about Bobby Kennedy (who appears in archival footage). Instead, it follows a loose group of characters staying at L.A.'s Ambassador Hotel on June 4, 1968, the day that Kennedy was assassinated. Using Kennedy as a symbol for what might have been -- clips from his speeches emphasize his inspiration and vitality -- the movie lays out the problems he might have solved in the lives of its troubled characters as they deal with issues of race, marriage, infidelity, politics, the Vietnam War, and the era's enlightenment via psychedelic drugs. As in Crash, separate stories overlap and occasionally collide. The star-studded cast includes Laurence Fishburne, Christian Slater, William H. Macy, Sharon Stone, Heather Graham, Elijah Wood, Lindsay Lohan, Demi Moore), Emilio Estevez, Helen Hunt), Martin Sheen), Anthony Hopkins, Harry Belafonte, Shia LeBeouf, and Ashton Kutcher.
Is it any good?
Bobby looks back with sadness and frustration, drawing clear connections to current events (the war in Iraq, troubled elections, continuing racial tensions). But it also offers resilient, even stubborn hope. If only we could remember the promise of 1968, Bobby proposes, we might find ourselves again. As the stories overlap and characters occasionally collide, director Emilio Estevez's very sincere, liberal-leaning, and occasionally flat-footed movie remembers RFK with reverence, feeling nostalgia for a promise unfulfilled.
While the many storylines vary in effectiveness and predictability, the finale -- Kennedy's arrival the hotel and the violence that follows -- is undeniably moving (even if the use of Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence" is decidedly heavy-handed). As the crowd gathered in the ballroom sees all too plainly, hopes abruptly run up against disappointment.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the film's premise -- that Bobby Kennedy represented a (lost) hope for change in the United States in 1968. Why did people think he was the answer to so many problems (such as Vietnam and the Civil Rights movement)? Is it fair to pin those kinds of expectations on any one person, even a possible president? How does the movie use archival TV images of RFK to draw parallels between his promises and the characters' activities? How does the inclusion of actual footage impact the viewer? What particular issues divide the characters, and how do they come together?
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