April 24th, 2007
This is an ensemble piece with a vengeance. You’ll spend the first half hour noticing celebrity actors, such as William H. Macy, Sharon Stone, Anthony Hopkins, Harry Belafonte, Lindsay Lohan, Elijah Wood, Freddy Rodriguez, Heather Graham, Martin Sheen, Helen Hunt, Demi Moore… Ashton Kutchner… the list goes on and on. Director Emilio Estevez has a small part too.
These characters hang around the Ambassador Hotel on June 5, 1968, interacting in ways that may or may not be emblematic of life in the 1960s. They play chess, get their hair done, have sex with the boss, drop acid and watch Planet of the Apes, and get married to keep from being shipped out to Vietnam.
In the elegiac final scene, Bobby Kennedy is assassinated and many of the celebrity actors’ characters lie wounded. Meanwhile the real Kennedy’s voice intones a speech about tolerance and rebirth. Audiences burst into spontaneous weeping and cheering.
That is, director Estevez clearly imagines his audiences weeping and cheering. In his mind they weep for the wasted promise, the lost possibilities, the wrong turning in America, the long years of Republicans in the White House, the crucifed once and future king. Then they’re cheering! Hear them? Emilio! Emilio! Emilio!
To a Canuck like me, it all seems a little naive and more than a little silly. I remember Bobby Kennedy. He was the rat-faced second brother in a would-be family dynasty of cynics and philanderers. They were the guys that got the U.S. into Vietnam, not out of it.
The movie is amusing enough for a slow night. It’s fun to recognize the famous actors. The Big Theme - the loss of the saviour, the elegy to lost hope in America - is a bunch of pompous drivel, as hollow as a tin soldier’s heart.