Liz Cheney Needs a Political Intervention
Biden White House Issues an Order to Sanctuary Cities, But Will It Have...
So Who Will Trump Pick For Veep?
The Blood on Biden’s Hands
Dock Their Pay
The Pipe Dream Presidential Candidacy of Gavin Newsom or Michelle Obama
When Radicals Cheer Self-Immolation
Biden Is Destroying the Firearm's Industry
The Left's Latest Attack on Christianity
Nostalgia Versus Numbers: Challenging America's Economic Pessimism
What It Means to Be a Political Conservative in America
Do Manners Matter Anymore?
A New Leader Elected to Office in a Consequential Election
How BLM Is Destroying Public Education
80 Percent of Americans Want Age Limits for the President
OPINION

Review: 'Chappaquiddick' Captures Senator Kennedy’s Biggest Scandal

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Grade: B+

“President Kennedy cast a long shadow and still does. It’s what I walk in every day.” These sentiments, espoused by Senator Ted Kennedy (Jason Clarke) in the new drama Chappaquiddick, help set the stage for what is to follow. The film recalls the tragic events that occurred on Chappaquiddick Island in the summer of 1969.

Advertisement

At the time, Kennedy was a Massachusetts legislator mulling a possible presidential run. During a car ride late one evening, Ted Kennedy’s car drove off a bridge with Kennedy in the driver’s seat and political aide Mary Jo Kopechne in the passenger seat. 

Kopechne died in the accident and Kennedy fled the scene.

The film stars Clarke as Kennedy and Kate Mara as Mary Jo Kopechne but the feature focuses more on the aftermath of the accident than the accident itself.

As the drama unfolds, Kennedy waits to report the accident until approximately ten hours after the event. At the time, his car had already been found and Mary Jo’s body had been discovered. The movie shows the Senator struggling with preserving his image (“I’m not gonna be president,” he tells his friends shortly after the crash) and protecting his family’s name at a time when most people would be more concerned with the loss of a woman’s life.

The film, which was written by Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan, seeks to humanize Kennedy while keeping its focus on his actions during this period. Australian actor Jason Clarke eloquently captures the strong-minded but cynical politician with his voice echoing Kennedy’s unique delivery. Kennedy’s actions are revealed here but the filmmakers display an empathy for him in part through scenes showcasing his troubled relationship with his overbearing father Joe (played powerfully by Bruce Dern).

Advertisement

Director John Curran doesn’t frame the film as a liberal or a conservative review of the accident and both Kennedy loyalists and detractors could find much to like about the movie.

Kennedy is portrayed as a leader haunted by the ghosts of his two late brothers who is seemingly forced into a political realm he didn’t choose.  “Sometimes the path you walk on isn’t the path you choose,” he says. 

That being said, the film shows how calculating he was in the aftermath of the tragedy and how willing he was to make himself into a martyr, even noting in a speech to the public that he could be a victim of the Kennedy curse.

Aside from Clarke’s painfully-realized portrait, much of the film’s strength is established through the character of Joe Gargan, played by Ed Helms. Gargan hosted the barbecue that Kennedy attended before the accident and he’s the voice of morality in the movie. He pushes Kennedy to contact the authorities as soon as he finds out about the accident and urges humility at a time when Kennedy was trying to skirt responsibility. 

Much of the script was based on the inquest (click here to receive an interview with the film’s producer), an investigation that was conducted months after the accident. That inquest helped remind people of Kennedy’s over failings in the aftermath of the tragedy.  

Advertisement

Chappaquiddick is raw and captivating, always trying to balance the reality of the situation with an understanding of Kennedy’s own personal baggage. Even for those who have heard about the story before, this drama brings real insight into the situation and paints a devastating portrait of the way that the Kennedys and their loyalists managed the tragedy. 

It’s a painfully realistic portrait of a tragic situation that has too often been viewed through a political prism. This movie cares little about Kennedy’s political views. It cares more about the tragedy and the aftermath and captures that situation stunningly well.

Sign up for John Hanlon’s weekly newsletter by clicking here.      

Join the conversation as a VIP Member

Recommended

Trending on Townhall Videos