Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s ‘Last Mountain’ Has a Lofty Night

lg3398y Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.s Last Mountain Has a Lofty Night“I would like to say I am,” said the actress Cheryl Hines when asked if she was as big an environmentalist as her Curb Your Enthusiasm character. “I’m learning.”

Ms. Hines was walking the carpet at an Upper East Side screening of The Last Mountain, a new documentary prominently featuring Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. as he helps fight mountaintop removal in West Virginia coal country. “I had no idea! It’s just shocking,” said Ms. Hines, who’d previously seen the film at Sundance.

Ms. Hines is a friend of the Kennedy family through the Riverkeeper Foundation-and we wanted to check on rumors that she was squiring Mr. Kennedy’s daughter Kick around Hollywood in an effort to make her a screen star. “I read that in the paper. I am encouraging her. I’m a big fan of hers-and I want to do what I can.”

Mr. Kennedy wore a narrow red tie printed with fish-appropriately, as mountaintop removal, the film alleges, spreads poisons into the waters. He’d had a meeting with the film’s director, Bill Haney, in Hyannisport-one brokered by National Resources Defense Council head John Adams-at which they agreed to expose the troubles in West Virginia. As a participant in the documentary, though, he didn’t try to seize control: “I didn’t even see the movie until it was made.”

“Documentary is the last refuge for investigative journalism,” Mr. Kennedy told The Observer, a theme he’d reiterate in his speech before the film began. “The only way people found out about global warming was An Inconvenient Truth.”

As for his own film, “I have been litigating in the state for 25 years,” Mr. Kennedy told us. “My family’s been involved in West Virginia since 1960.” As for other family involvements, we had to ask Mr. Kennedy about his daughter’s purported Hollywood involvement. “I’m just happy if any of my kids have a job,” he said, laughing, “and they’re off my payroll.”

Mr. Kennedy left the red carpet to pick up his complimentary buckets of popcorn and soda, part of the screening planned by nightlife impresario Peggy Siegal. At the popcorn bar, journalist and Last Mountain producer Clara Bingham, resplendent in red, chatted with The New Yorker‘s Philip Gourevitch, who was impressed by all of the environmentally friendly hybrid limousines outside. “They all even have ‘Green’ in their license plates,” said Mr. Gourevitch, noting the disconcerting presence of an SUV among the green cars. Said Ms. Bingham, “I think that’s Peggy’s.”

The screening-with guests munching the theater’s buttery popcorn-began, but not before Mr. Kennedy gave a speech in which he lambasted the public’s attention to Charlie Sheen (which he pronounced the Irish way, like “Sheehan”). Mr. Haney presented Mr. Kennedy, his creative muse, an engraved moose antler, a massive party favor Mr. Kennedy held a bit awkwardly.

We didn’t see Mr. Kennedy toting it at the after-party at the locavore-haven restaurant Rouge Tomate, where the waiters served seafood curry (responsibly harvested seafood, we must assume), but we did catch the West Virginia-raised Ms. Bingham, who’d reported in West Virginia for Vanity Fair. “I was down there to go after the Bush administration for Graydon Carter, and people asked, ‘Are you kiiiin?’” she told us-her family having for decades owned the Louisville Courier-Journal. “It was a homecoming for me.” She decided to involve herself in The Last Mountain, she said, because “the only way to communicate the vast degree of devastation was visually. Writing wouldn’t change what I wanted to change.”

Had she read Freedom-the Jonathan Franzen novel that conveyed the devastation of mountaintop removal? “I invited Jonathan Franzen-I sent him a fan letter.” Mr. Franzen might have enjoyed the film, which attacks industrialists and polluters with the single-minded fervor of Freedom‘s protagonist, Walter Berglund.

Petite 19-year-old Skins star James Newman was there holding a flute of Champagne and accompanied by his father. “I didn’t see it tonight. I will see it, though.” Was Mr. Newman interested in politics? “I’m not that interested, per se, but the director’s a friend of ours.” He planned to spend the summer waiting for the news as to whether Skins would be renewed. But enough about that-where did he stand politically? “Leftish!” Given what the crowd had come to see tonight, he was surely not alone.

ddaddario@observer.com