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Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Sharon Stone, Laurence Fishburne, Demi Moore, Emilio Estevez, Lindsay Lohan, Elijah Wood, Christian Slater, Heather Graham, William H Macy, Harry Belafonte, Helen Hunt, Ashton Kutcher, Freddy Rodriguez, Martin Sheen

Director: Emilio Estevez

As the production notes of this film point out, after the assassinations of JFK, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, the murder of Bobby Kennedy - on the night he won the California primary on the way to the White House - felt to millions like the ultimate knockout blow to American idealism. As it probably was.

It's a symptom of this film's failings that what emotional punch it has comes almost entirely from Kennedy's own ringing speeches, which underline the loss to America and indeed history.

The rest of the movie is a sort of Grand Hotel, a film of which Hopkins' retired ex-doorman is reminded when his friend (Belafonte) chides him that 'this is the Ambassador Hotel - nothing ever happens.'

This night in 1968, though, there's a lot going on. The catering chief (Slater) is fired by the manager (Macy) for refusing his staff time off to vote. His revenge is to tell Macy's hairstylist wife (an unrecognisable Stone) about the manager's affair with telephonist Graham. A faded singer (Moore) drowns in alcohol, while her husband (Estevez) considers leaving. A bride (Lohan) prepares to marry a young man (Wood) to save him from service in Vietnam.

And there are more. Too many more, in fact. All these are little people, dwarfed by the presence of Kennedy - and the fact that there are no star names at the beginning of the film leaves you struggling to recognise half-familiar faces (Helen Hunt is particularly difficult to spot) when you should be concentrating on their stories. Only Moore conjures up an affecting enough portrayal to compete with the bigger drama unfolding around her.

David Quinlan

USA 2006. UK Distributor: Momentum. Colour.
116 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 1, Swearing 1.

Review date: 22 Jan 2007