The true story of Senator Ted Kennedy's car accident that
claimed the life of campaign strategist Mary Jo Kopechne in 1969.
Directed by John Curran
Written by Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan
Starring Jason Clarke, Kate Mara, Ed Helms, Jim Gaffigan,
Bruce Dern, Clancy Brown, Olivia Thirlby, Taylor Nichols
The story of the ill-fated car crash that occurred on Chappaquiddick Island in 1969 is remembered by only a few. Since the death of Senator Kennedy, it's been all but forgotten. But we must never forget that a senator from the most famous family in America was responsible for the death of a young woman and totally got away with it. Not only that, but he was reelected again and again, becoming one of the longest serving senators in Congress. This movie shows us a glimpse of the human side of a man with an enormous familial and political weight on his shoulders. More so, we see how political ambition can further taint the soul. If this tragedy hadn't have happened, he may have been a president at some point.
Jason Clarke plays Ted Kennedy in one of the strongest performances of his career. He nails the patented Kennedy accent and plays Ted as the black sheep of the family, a man who never wanted to be president but was pressured into politics by his father (Dern). Following the deaths of Joe Jr., JFK, and Bobby, Ted was Dad's last hope for greatness. Combine that with alcohol and negligence, and you get a terrible accident that killed campaign strategist and family friend Mary Jo Kopechne (Mara). Ultimately, Ted did not handle the situation well and to this day, what exactly happened is up for debate. The film gives the audience as much detail as possible, and doesn't really paint Ted as a monster or as a victim. He's just a misguided political figure who never meant to hurt anyone but also never accepted responsibility. The film keeps you in the middle.
Chappaquiddick came and went pretty fast, despite featuring an incredible cast and detailing a significant 20th century American event that was overshadowed by the moon landing. Senator Kennedy's fall from grace and rise from the ashes will never be taught in schools, but it's an important lesson in modern politics. Power can get anybody out of any jam, no matter how horrible. With the Kennedys being the closest we ever got to American royalty, it's a wonder Ted didn't become president after all. After watching this film, I can say I'm glad he didn't. He wasn't leadership material, and he certainly didn't know how to take responsibility for his mistakes.