Movie Review by Joan Ellis –
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
Date: 8 March 2018