Monday, January 1, 2007


Source Material:

Director: Robert Dornhelm

Teleplay by: Hank Steinberg

Year: 2002

Made for Television

Cast Highlights:
Linus Roache: Robert F. Kennedy
James Cromwell: Lyndon Johnson
David Paymer: Dick Goodwin
Martin Donovan: John F. Kennedy
Ving Rhames: Judge Jones
Kevin Hare: Edward Kennedy
Sean Gregory Sullivan: Steve Smith
Sergio Di Zio: Adam Walinsky
Marnie McPhail: Ethel Kennedy
Jacob Vargas: Cesar Chavez
Corinne Conley: Rose Kennedy
Phil Craig: John McCone
Jacob Vargas: Cesar Chavez

Robert F. Kennedy was a profoundly interesting historical figure. As the clear successor to JFK, he struggled to escape from his brother's shadow. In the process, he tried to come to terms with many of the most pressing problems of the 1960's, including racism, segregation, migrant worker's rights, and the war in Vietnam. He deserves a great biopic, one that explores his complexity and impact on the American political scene.

This isn't that biopic.

This is not to say that RFK doesn't try. It begins on November 22, 1963, the day JFK was shot, and covers Robert Kennedy's personal and political development up to his assassination in 1968. This is rich dramatic material: over the course of that five years, Robert Kennedy transformed himself from a vicious defender of his brother's policies into the preeminent voice of liberalism in the United States. Unfortunately, RFK shows that development through a series of increasingly tedious dialogues between Bobby and his dead brother. These are stagy and poorly filmed, and Martin Donovan does a terrible impression of JFK. Add in Linus Roache's now-you-hear-it-now-you-don't impression of a Kennedy accent, repetitious and cloying guitar/harmonica music, and crudely integrated stock footage, and you have an almost irredeemable mess. The only bright spots are a subtle, gentle performance by Jacob Vargas as Cesar Chavez, and excerpts from RFK's speeches. These pieces of sterling writing, however, only serve to demonstrate the clunky, cheesy nature of the rest of the script.

Memorable Quotes:
Cesar Chavez: We're not here for handouts, just the right to work for a fair, honest wage.
RFK: That's what anyone deserves...What's so funny?
Cesar Chavez: I didn't know what to expect from you.
RFK: You think I do?

JFK: You can't fool a New Yorker. He knows an asshole when he sees one.
RFK: You think that's how I come across?
JFK: Maybe it's who you really are. Out for yourself...
RFK: Self-righteous, obsessive...
JFK: Maybe it's the real you they're seeing.
RFK: Maybe it's who I really am.

Physical resemblance: 5/10
Historical Accuracy: 7/10
Acting: 5/10
Production Values: 4/10
Cinematography: 4/10
Directing: 4/10

Overall: 5/10

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