There are few individuals in history who left as big of a mark on American politics as Robert F. Kennedy did with his short time in the public eye. While his brother will forever be the Kennedy who was president, Bobby Kennedy may have somehow surpassed his brother as one of the great politicians of the 1960s. “Bobby Kennedy for President,” a new documentary series from Netflix and director Dawn Porter, takes an in-depth view of the man with the weight of a political dynasty. The result is a gorgeously crafted series to examine the Kennedy who sought to change America for the better.
“Bobby Kennedy For President” quickly jumps into the fray and helps us understand his importance to the people. Porter wisely has the audience buy-in on the way people loved Bobby before showing his assassination mere moments later. As the audience, you’re instantly hit with a feeling of loss. By hooking the audience so quickly to Bobby’s story, Porter lays the groundwork to go back to the beginning of Bobby’s life. Wisely, she does not spend too much time rotted in this time, and by 20 minutes into the documentary, we’re covering Bobby’s role in JFK’s Democratic nomination.
While the series does not necessarily reach the sprawling scope of “O.J.: Made in America,” the series takes a broad view of America. It directly discusses the courting of African-American leaders, such as Harry Belafonte and others, to the democratic party. It’s a very smart move to discuss Martin Luther King Jr.’s rise as an interesting foil to Bobby as well. Bobby’s relationship with other senators, such as Joe McCarthy, provided a source of worry for others. With time and experience, Bobby ultimately becomes a source of power for this movement, but it takes time. Watching Bobby’s evolution from a cautious and callous political operative into the humanitarian he is known as today is one of the highlights of the documentary.
The editing and research on display help the series blow by. Despite its four hour total runtime, Porter makes the series flow quickly from event to event. We spend just the right amount of time on JFK’s assassination. We also get through Bobby’s childhood in under 20 minutes. It’s easy to get caught up in the grit and grind of a person’s life. To know when to move on to the next topic is tough in a documentary, and Porter manages the time to near perfection.
Overall, “Bobby Kennedy for President” is one of the better biographical documentaries in recent memory. To give the size and scope of RFK’s life the justice it deserves, the series is a focused and fluid. There’s plenty to like about the series as it moves through the phases of Bobby’s life in public. Through strong direction from Porter and amazing archival footage, we finally have a series that does justice to the man’s legacy. Fans of the Kennedy dynasty should find what they’re looking for here.