April 2007

Arts & Letters


By Rachel Hills

To people growing up in an era of interest-rate elections and ten-second sound-bites, odes to politicians of times past can seem as implausible as they are inspiring. Was Paul Keating really the visionary portrayed in the recent musical about his career? (For that matter, is Gough Whitlam really worthy of having a pop group lovingly bear his name?) If the current state of affairs is anything to go by, it's easier to believe that such characterisations are rose-hued baby-boomer distortions, rather than accurate reflections of the past.

Bobby, a re-imagining of the assassination of Robert F Kennedy, avoids improbability by combining its fictional narrative with documentary footage of the American senator's public appearances and speeches. Written and directed by Emilio Estevez, the film tells the stories of 24 fictional characters in and around the Ambassador Hotel, in Los Angeles, on the night that Bobby Kennedy was shot. These personal stories make the politics more approachable, putting Kennedy's campaign for the presidency in context.

Estevez draws his characters well, especially given the size of the cast. William H Macy's hotel manager is good-hearted but flawed in a way that is painfully realistic; Freddy Rodriguez (of Six Feet Under fame) is convincing as a young kitchen worker battling racism; and Lindsay Lohan, playing a young bride-to-be marrying a classmate to keep him from going to Vietnam, breaks from her off-screen party-girl persona. But the structure has its weaknesses: for all the depth of these characters, there are interludes in the film's two hours that drag. Bobby has most impact when the principal subject is on screen, and the final, tragic scenes are when it really hits home.

For those who were around in 1968, Bobby may ultimately seem a depressing reminder of failed dreams and lost idealism. For those who are only now discovering that era, though, the film offers hope for what politics might once again offer.

Cover: April 2007

April 2007

From the front page

The NBN-ding story

New developments in the interminable debate over broadband in Australia

‘The weekend’ cover

‘The Weekend’ by Charlotte Wood

The Stella Prize–winner returns with a stylish character study of women surprised by age

Penthouse magazine cover Aug 1993

Tasteful sexuality

An oral history of the Warwick & Joanne Capper ‘Penthouse’ shoot

Rhetoric vs reality

The government has no agenda for addressing the worsening economy

In This Issue

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Robert Menzies & Winston Churchill

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Kuru awareness week

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Corrosion of character

Resisting the tide

‘BA Santamaria: Your Most Obedient Servant’

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Margaret Simons’ biography of one of the country’s most admired politicians

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‘Anthem’ marks the return of the Australian playwright’s working-class theatre

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The Judy Garland biopic confuses humiliation for homage

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On the splendour of the acclaimed author’s distinctly antipodean seeing

We will not be complete

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