Friday, March 09, 2007

2. Bobby

The most compelling kinds of movies are those birthed by necessity or urgency. Emilio Estevez needed to make Bobby. So he did. The way he wanted to. Without compromise. He made it for himself, not an audience.

I'm still baffled by Bobby's tepid reception. Bobby is the kind of personal, go-for-broke filmmaking that is sorely lacking amidst the locust-wave of superhero franchises, middling animated movies, stomach-turning slasher flicks and pretentious and/or ill-conceived "independent" ventures by the "low-budget" arms of major studios. Bobby was a beacon this past year. It had a conscience. It took a stand and didn't waffle. It had a spine, for Pete's sake. And Peter Travers -- that whore of whores -- decried its "insipid ineptitude." Ineptitude? Coming from a major critic, that word choice is manifestly irresponsible, because "ineptitude" connotes an across-the-board inability to complete a task. And it is objective fact that Estevez achieved what he set out to do. That is not debatable. Whether you liked or hated that achievement is the essence of your opinion, and hence your movie review. My guess is Travers saw the name "Emilio Estevez" and wrote his review before seeing the movie. You can hate Bobby for its earnestness, its politics, its contrivances and affectations. But to simply call it "inept" is prejudice, not analysis.

But enough about idiot critics. Well hold on. One more thing: Critics called it a bloated movie reminiscent of disaster pictures like The Poseidon Adventure. They're right. Bobby is a disaster picture. It ties a bunch of ordinary people to one location at one moment in time, and profoundly changes their lives with one event. Its plot is as predictable as Titanic's, but both these movies prove that it's not always plot that counts. What matters is character and execution. Bobby has scores of jewel-like characters. And its execution, especially that of its final sequence, is the work of a great filmmaker who needed needed needed to exorcise some emotion from himself.

For a fuller and fresher reaction to Bobby, read my first post. I have not seen the movie since it came out in November, and I've since had many arguments over its merits. For my top 10, I wanted to revisit it on DVD but it's not coming out til April. Perhaps then I will watch it again with a shrewder, more cynical eye, and its flaws will be indefensible. But I cannot deny the raw experience I had in theaters. This movie transported me to 1968, but by virtue of its themes existed urgently in the here and now. It is a call to arms (not the military kind) that unfortunately went unheard in 2006.


Reel Fanatic said...

I have to admit I dismissed this one when it was in the theaters, partly because of the critical reception and partly because, with so many stars in it, I just couldn't imagine how he could possibly pull off telling any kind of coherent story .. with your recommendation, I'll give it another chance on DVD

J.J. said...

Definitely worth a look on DVD. It's certainly coherent, but it's more about a mood and a feeling and an idea rather than a story. Sounds treacly, but it's true.

Jeanette said...


J.J. said...


Anonymous said...

Liberal propaganda trash. "If only Bobby had gotten elected" ... right. Meanwhile it suggested that the only black chicks worth talking to have big tits and resemble white models. Gimme a break.