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Chappaquiddick

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Chappaquiddick

Your interest in Chappaquiddick – or lack thereof – is likely to be determined by your age and your politics. The younger you are, the less likely you are to be emotionally involved. Director John Curran and writers Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan have made a fine film of a terrible story. They chose wisely to deal with things that were known and factual. No theories here.

Of the four sons of Rose and Joseph Kennedy, Joe Jr. was killed in Europe during WWII. John F. Kennedy became president in 1960 and brought a new generation into the political world. He died by a bullet in Dallas in 1962. His brother Robert was shot dead while running for President. Their supporters, I among them, reeled when Chappaquiddick unfolded.

Ted, the youngest brother, was elected to the senate and plunged into controversy when he drove a car off a narrow bridge in Chappaquiddick, MA that caused the drowning death of his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara), a strong, bright campaign worker in the Kennedy organization. Now we have a movie that offers the first filmed interpretation of that accident. Whatever your political persuasion, you will see a weak man who never measured up to that major crisis. He left the scene while Mary Jo Kopechne struggled for breath as she drowned in the car whose doors she couldn’t open.

Director John Curran has done a fine job with a tough subject. He doesn’t pretend to know how Kennedy escaped from the car and left the scene while Kopechne drowned inside so he concentrates on the known facts. Kennedy escaped, left the scene, and waited far too long to report the accident while trying to figure out how to make it all go away.

It is enough to say that because of his family’s fame, he fell immediately into the public spotlight while one loyal family friend, Joe Gargan (an excellent Ed Helms), tried unsuccessfully to convince him to do the right things. Bruce Dern stuns as patriarch Joseph Kennedy stricken speechless by a stroke who still tries to control his son. The screen fills with an ugly bunch of former loyalists who want to take Kennedy’s place as a presidential candidate.

At the center of it all, actor Jason Clark creates Kennedy in a remarkable creation of a man without a moral center caught in a crisis of his own making. In a powerful, understated performance, Clark conveys the center rot of a spoiled man whose dark, selfish instincts and ambitions governed his own behavior after the accident.

The supporting cast does a fine job of creating a mob of former loyalists who suddenly tried to seize the opening Kennedy had planned to use to run for president. Many in the audience were joined in disgust. The man who followed his three brothers into politics failed as a human being when he drove off a bridge, left his friend in the car – and tried to erase it.

Film Reviewer: Joan Ellis
Film Title : Chappaquiddick
Word Count : 498
Running Time: 1:41
Rating: PG-13
Date: 8 March 2018

 

The Post

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

The Post

The Post does a grand job of filling in the cracks of a major historical scandal. It often takes a long time to do that – in this case five decades. Over time, the primary players confess in regret or die in silence while others feel entitled at last to pull together the details of a major event.

This movie shows us the threads of the Pentagon Papers case that ignited Watergate. Those threads were suppressed under four administrations while American boys died in Vietnam. Now they are given us by Tom Hanks as Post editor Ben Bradlee, Meryl Streep as Post owner Kay Graham, and the fine director Steven Spielberg.

At the outset, Bradlee is editor of The Post when it was considered just Washington’s local newspaper. Kay Graham’s husband, editor of the paper, has recently committed suicide. Ben Bagdikian (Bob Odenkirk) is a Post journalist on assignment in Vietnam to assess the validity of the controversial war.

Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys), thoroughly disillusioned by the human cost of the war, risks taking five thousand pages of incriminating papers to the New York Times from his job at Rand. A judge shuts down publication by the Times.

Ellsberg then delivers those papers to The Post where Bradlee and Graham explore both the politics of the Vietnam war and the possible consequences if they publish the papers. Prison sentences and destruction of their paper hang over their heads as a possibility.

As Tom Hanks literally becomes Ben Bradlee, we drop fully into the story. He gives us Bradlee’s determination to publish if he can convince Kay Graham it is the right thing to do. Meryl Streep’s Kay Graham, now owner after her husband’s suicide, gets a fast course in courage. She must decide whether to risk everything by publishing the papers the court has forbidden. In that process, she shows us Graham’s deep mix of brains and courage that had been used before her husband’s death in social and volunteer situations. Together Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep bring these two figures to fighting life and lift the movie to top of 2017. Both are thoroughly convincing.

Matthew Rhys’s Daniel Ellsberg is a deeply caring idealist determined to stop the dying of American boys in a political war. Rhys endows Ellsberg with a brave mixture of courage and fear.

We see glimpses of the future (this was 1971) in short shots of Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson as they argued and covered the truth of that war while allowing it to continue. The movie tackles and exposes the bi-partisan wrongs of the war and shows us the enormous courage Kay Graham showed in encouraging Ben Bradlee to publish at great risk to all of them and to their paper. A short final shot reminds us that the release of the Pentagon Papers led to the biggest scandal in American political history. We look forward to watching this same cast deliver the story of Watergate.

Film Critic: JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : The Post
Word Count: 495
Running Time: 2:33
Rating: PG-13
Date: 21 January 2018