Movie Review: Chappaquiddick

The movie “Chappaquiddick”, which is about the accidental drowning in July 1969 of Mary Jo Kopechne. For me this story created many more questions than the it answered.

While sitting through this historic two hours I wondered why Ted Kennedy, played by Jason Clarke would ever even consider running for President in 1972 when his last remaining brother Bobby Kennedy was assassinated and his older brother John Kennedy was assassinated when he was president v5 years earlier? Why would Ted Kennedy think that he would not also be assassinated either while running or if he got elected President – even if there was no such thing as the Kennedy curse?
The reason why this is so significant is because Ted Kennedy’s desire to please his father, played in this movie by Bruce Dern, and run for President is entirely the reason for the long list of irresponsible and stupid decisions he made after driving over a bridge with a young woman in the passenger seat. As was shown in this film, some of the things Kennedy did after the accident were understandable, but by his own admission most of the things he did, including waiting 10 hours to report the accident to the police made no sense at all and are downright criminal acts. What followed was lying to the press and the police about almost everything including stating that Kennedy received a concussion during the accident when he was not injured.

What this movie also clearly shows is the rights of the rich and very privileged like the Kennedy family is entirely different than any other normal person in this country. Within hours of this tragedy, Kennedy had an army of lawyers and helpers with hundreds of contacts who were helping Kennedy clean up all the mistakes he made after Kopechne drowned and then ran from the scene of the accident. Many of the mistakes Kennedy made were out of sheer shock and panic, like any other person, but ultimately many of his terrible mistakes were because on his worries about his family name, his desire to run for president and because of his father.

One wonders about how accurate the depiction of Ted Kennedy’s emotional reaction in the aftermath of this horrible tragedy that to me seemed uncaring and wooden. Kennedy seemed to only care about himself and almost never about this poor young woman, played very well by Kate Mara, who drowned. What the world does know is that Ted Kennedy was an alcoholic most of his life and this is very understandable considering the guilt he must have felt about this horrible incident in the prime of his life. Kennedy also had a very tortured personal life, including his wife Joan who was also an alcoholic and they divorced in 1983.

I thought the acting was very good throughout this movie and a standout was Bruce Dern who at age 82 looks more like 100 in his role as Joseph Kennedy. I thought it was quite ironic that this incident in July 1969 happened around the time of the first moon landing, given that the main catalyst for the landing was John F. Kennedy some 9 years earlier. The actor who played Ted Kennedy was born one day before this incident occurred and I thought that was another significant irony.

There is no doubt that this movie does not paint a good picture of Ted Kennedy concerning this tragedy and I wondered if the Kennedy family have stopped previous attempts to produce a film about Chappaquiddick in the past.

I thought Chappaquiddick was well done and is a good movie about an important moment in American history.

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