Sunday, December 24, 2006

Bobby and Pretty Birds

What can I say about "Bobby"? It's one of the most unevenly frustrating movies I've seen this year. There are the moving snippets of actual footage of Robert F. Kennedy campaigning at the start of the film, and the emotional wallop of his assassination at the end. In between, there is a bunch of stuff about a bunch of people you don't care about, not because they are fictional, but because they are thinly drawn and, for the most part, badly acted. We probably spend 10-15 minutes total with each, which isn't much to develop a storyline that an audience can embrace, so you're left with sappy platitudes delivered by celebrities who you don't get time to see as any character but their own public persona. (Ashton Kutcher as a drug dealer - haha! Did he pick this up from when Tommy Chong was on "That 70's Show"? Wait, were they even on the show at the same time? Is that a wig? Oh, look it's Demi Moore. Did they share a trailer? Did she get him the job? Oh, wait, am I supposed to be paying attention?)

The film made me hunger for a good documentary bio about RFK. I don't feel like I know much about him. I was 6 when he died, and 1 when JFK was killed, but for some reason, it's JFK's assassination that seems more in my psyche. "Bobby" wants you to believe that the death of RFK dashed the hopes of America, but I was under the impression that we were numb by then, numb by the loss of Martin Luther King, Jr., not to mention the first Kennedy assassination. In the film you hear that losing MLK was tragic, "but at least we still had Bobby." I guess I was too young to harbor those hopes, and I suppose my parents (still in their 20's, saddled with young children and a deteriorating marriage) didn't impart any of those dreams on us. When I think of Bobby Kennedy I think of the attorney general who supposedly hushed up his brother's affairs, who may have also slept with Marilyn Monroe, who conspiracy theorists proclaim was involved with her death.

My grasp of history is woefully thin.

I just finished reading "Pretty Birds," a novel by Scott Simon about a young teenage girl living in Sarajevo in 1992. It took me several re-reads of the first few chapters to clarify the difference between Bosnians and Serbs, and understand who was fighting whom. It made me feel stupid, and yet, at the same time, made reading the novel more interesting because I was learning something new.

I suppose I can give similar credit to "Bobby," that it taught me something I didn't know. But it's just not that good a film so I hesitate to give it anything but an unqualified "Don't bother."


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