Anchor: Tom Brokaw.
Twenty-five years after the assassination of Bobby Kennedy during the 1968 presidential primaries, NBC News memorializes one of the most interesting and complex personalities of the post-war era in “Robert F. Kennedy: The Man, the Myth, the Memories.” At least they got the myth right.
From the outset of his public life, Kennedy was a man unafraid of power, who had the will to use it. A master tactician, he was charismatic on the stump and one of the first of a new breed of politicos to harness the potency of television to his needs.
More compassionate than his older brother Jack and smarter than his younger brother Ted, he was the linchpin who held the political juggernaut of his family together. And, like Jack, an assassin’s bullet canonized him.
“RFK” is yeomanlike work. It touches all the necessary bases — Hoffa, McCarthy, the Attorney Generalship, civil rights, Vietnam, the Senate, and his own run for the presidency — but all it does is touch them. Not enough of the man emerges.
Part of the problem is the hybrid structure the filmmakers chose; historical footage, much of it wonderful, linked together by talking heads. Other than a few brief on-camera narratives by Tom Brokaw, shot at the Kennedy home in Hickory Hill, Va., there is nothing to put events in perspective. If you don’t know the time and you don’t know the players, this history by osmosis can get awfully confusing.
Still, there is much to commend the effort. There are some fascinating reminiscences offered by Coretta Scott King, Sen. Harris Wofford, historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and Pierre Salinger. Ethel Kennedy and Jean Kennedy Smith are delightful in their recollections.
The real star of “RFK” is an intangible: The unfulfillable promise of a man who did not get to finish what he started.