My first thought as I watched this obviously well-cut trailer for Dawn Porter‘s Bobby Kennedy For President (Netflix, 4.27) was “how deep-down honest is this film?” It’s very easy to paint a romantic, inspirational portrait of this fallen hero. But we’ve just been through the sordid events of Chappaquiddick, which portrayed Edward Kennedy as a character-challenged weakling. And we all know that President John F. Kennedy had his own character issues as far as incessant hound-dogging was concerned. Are we to assume that the Kennedy family’s tradition of privilege and the faint whiff of arrogance never rubbed off on Bobby? Not a bit?
I agree that RFK was probably the best of the brood, as he’d clearly demonstrated the ability and willingness to grow with the times. But I wonder who he really was, and I mean “really.” He began in the mid ’50s as a conservative-minded hardhead investigator (founding father Joseph P. Kennedy once said that RFK “hates like I do”) and an ally of Communist witch-hunter Roy Cohn, of all people. But by the end of his life RFK had become a kind of poet-dreamer of his own making, a guy who seemed to truly believe in transcendence and compassion and who sang a song that resonated all over.
50 years ago huge portions of this country were in love with the idea of Bobby Kennedy, the successor to the throne with the reedy voice and tousled hair and an affection for Greek poets. Even rural bumblefucks loved and admired him. But today the children of those legions are supporters of an animal — a nostril-breathing, blatantly unhinged rightwing sociopath. Paul Schrader has noted that it wasn’t just movies of the ’60s and ’70s that were better, but that moviegoers were better also. Same thing with the voters. 35% of the voters in this country are nihilistic and dangerous.
The debut of Porter’s four-part miniseries will follow a special 4.25 screening at the Tribeca Film Festival.