Sunday, 2 November 2014

Estevez Double Bill : Bobby (2006) and The Way (2010)

Saturday night. And, as usual when confronted with nothing worth watching other than Doctor Who (I always sky+ Boardwalk Empire and watch on Sundays), I turned to films instead.

Earlier that afternoon I'd picked up a film I'd watched once before as part of a three for a fiver deal in a store. That film was Bobby and would deal with the first half of the evening well enough.

But what to do after Doctor Who finished? It was then that I remembered a film I'd sky+'d two Saturdays back. A premiere that aired on BBC2 at the daft time of 11:15pm. That film was The Way.  

The link between both films is its writer and director; former 80s Bratpacker Emilio Estevez.

Two Emilio Estevez directed films in one day, I can assure you there was no real plan to this!

As a flagrant attempt to be weighed down in Oscar nominations, Emilio Estevez's star studded and old pals act depiction of the assassination of Robert F Kennedy in 1968, seen through the eyes of 22 people at the Ambassador Hotel, Bobby failed miserably.

Watched at the time I found it to be a mawkish, earnest and reactionary take on a pivotal moment in US history that used its two dimensional characters to address issues such as Vietnam, race relations, the counter culture and the flaws of the system in general. Fictionalising the ensemble meant that so much of the real life eyewitness accounts were watered down or removed completely, robbing the real people whom some of the characters are based on of their true story;  for example, the Hispanic bus boy Juan Romero, who touchingly placed his Rosary beads in Bobby Kennedy's hands as he lay dying is excised of his devout faith and his interest in politics to become a decidedly plain Jose Rojas, who just wants the night off to see the baseball, whilst fading star Rosemary Clooney who performed that night at the hotel - and would later suffer PTSD for what she had witnessed - becomes Demi Moore's Virginia Fallon, a 'me me me' drunken lush falling from the limelight. As a viewer with an appreciation of history, I cannot see why the film makers chose to remove the emotional heft from these incidents and lives to replace them with uninteresting stereotypes.

And yet, away from its lack of vitality or desire to actually truly say something of merit, there's still something charmingly old fashioned about Bobby which has resonated even further with me on this my second watch. With its starry ensemble and their multiple view points, it's kind of like an extremely intimate, small scale disaster movie or an Arthur Hailey style glossy potboiler which actually has something pivotal and dramatic at its core. OK there's Lindsey Lohan, Elijah Wood, Shia Lebeouf, Heather Graham, Ashton Kutcher and Sharon Stone to stink the place up, but there's also Anthony Hopkins, Harry Belafonte, William H Macy, Laurence Fishburne, Helen Hunt and Martin Sheen - actors you can't help but want to spend time with. And y'know, the little Hobbit actually surprises here - who knew? Indeed, Bobby is very much a film that you want to succeed even though - apart from its important final stages - it never truly does.

Away from its stench of defeat to even get spotted by the academy, Bobby has matured into a more enjoyable experience than it perhaps truly deserves to be. I guess, like with RFK himself, you just can't help but get behind it and, in turn, be left to wonder what might have been.

It's still a damn sight better than that other open invite to the academy, The Butler.

This is a film that is more low key, tender and personal than his previous effort Bobby, and it's all the better for it. The Way keeps the likeability inherent in Bobby but manages to tell a much more rounded and cohesive tale concerning Thomas, an ageing American played by Martin Sheen; ensuring Estevez's commitment to make his films family affairs, who arrives in France following the death of his son (Estevez, seen in flashbacks and as an occasional ethereal presence) in the Pyrenees during a storm whilst walking the Camino de Santiago. Thomas' original idea is to retrieve the body, but instead he decides to pick up where his son left off and walk the ancient spiritual pilgrimage from France through Spain to mark his passing. Whilst there, he meets other pilgrims from various corners of the world and all looking for something in particular, including gregarious Dutchman Joost (Yorick van Wageningen) failed Irish author Jack (James Nesbitt) and abrasive Canadian Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger)

The combination of beautiful Spanish scenery and a positive message at the heart of the film makes The Way a very nice, relaxing movie that manages to avoid too much outright sentimentality whilst still warming the cockles of your heart.

The most satisfying film of the night then was The Way and proves Estevez has improved and is capable of making something at some future stage that could be both critically and commercially successful.

No comments:

Post a Comment