“Chappaquiddick”: A Film Review

Posted: May 14th, 2018 | Filed under: Cinema | No Comments »

Those who were around and of age, members of my generation, the War Baby Generation, at least many of us, remain fascinated with the phenomenon that was the Kennedy’s, such a unique political force it became.

JFK was the first media age superstar president. His assassination in November ’63 is our “I remember exactly where I was” moment, more so even than 9/11.

Then there was brother Bobby’s ascension. And his assassination.

Then came the rise of last brother standing Teddy, insecure but haughty, a reluctant scion of the family. The machine was in place for him to seek the White House.

Then came Chappaquiddick. It’s the island off Martha’s Vineyard, where Kennedy, drunk, drove a car off a bridge after leaving a summertime celebration, killing the only passenger, a young woman, a former aide of brother Bobby’s, Mary Jo Kopechne.

Because of the accident and its still murky aftermath, Ted Kennedy’s presidential ambitions were scuttled, if not his political career as it turned out.

This is not an easy film to watch. It is a crash course on the nature of power politics, the fixers, the machinations attendant to protect the famous, to propagate influence.

John Curran’s film also provides insight into the lengths the steamroller cabal of get it taken care of acolytes patriarch Joe Kennedy set in place for his sons would go to protect the “integrity” of the family. (I know, run on sentence.)

Jason Clarke’s portrayal of Ted Kennedy is insightful. One moment his insecurities and discomfort in the spotlight are manifest, he cowers before his father, who is frail, ailing from a stroke. The next he is berating a minion for not taking care of matters, then manipulating the local government officials.

Kennedy’s actions after the accident remain puzzling.

How the Kennedy family and its men handled the situation not so much.

Kopechne (Kate Mara) becomes a problem to be dealt with, not an unfortunate victim of an accident.

Because we weren’t in those rooms when the situation was being dealt with, we don’t know what really happened, don’t really know how true to life this film is?

But the telling seems pretty damn believable.

And I found it damn scary.

— c d kaplan

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