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I must admit that I went into the film Chappaquiddick with only a limited, working knowledge of the events dramatized in the movie.
I left the film with little more.
There are some fine performances in Chappaquiddick. Jason Clarke leads the cast as Ted Kennedy and more than acquits himself in the movie’s featured role. The actor has typically played hard body tough guys and his Kennedy is neither of those things. Also worth mention is Ed Helms as Joe Gragan, an “adopted” Kennedy brother who confronts his morality and his loyalty as the events of Chappaquiddick unfold. Both assay their real-life counterparts extremely well.
The movie, in surprisingly straightforward fashion, tells the story of the tragic, drowing death of Mary Jo Kopechne, who is trapped underwater in a car driven off a bridge by Senator Ted Kennedy. Kennedy’s actions after the accident are the heart of the story as he vacillates between his desire to tell the complete truth and his desire to protect his political future. That he waits to report the accident for 9 hours does not help his case.
Chappaquiddick seems to want to present events in the most even-handed fashion it can. It seems to want to paint a picture of a man in crisis who is bedeviled by forces within and without. It seems to want to let the audience draw its own conclusions.
Because of that, Chappaquiddick plays out way too carefully, way too by-the-numbers. With no attempt to employ a clever narrative structure the movie tries to generate tension with successive will-he-or-won’t-he do the right thing vignettes. Clarke plays these in perfectly fashion, but after two or three of them, the audience has gotten the point. Ted Kennedy, as presented in Chappaquiddick, is a man confused by his legacy, confronted by the demons of his family and overmatched by the situation he is in.
I was hoping for much more from the film than an encyclopedia article about the events. I did not get it.
CHAPPAQUIDDICK receives THREE FAUX NECK BRACES out of a possible FIVE.