Chappaquiddick, rated PG-13
Chappaquiddick is a film about the 1969 fatal accident involving Senator Ted Kennedy and Mary Jo Kopechne and the resulting coverup. The film is directed by John Curran and written by Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan. It is a well-made and acted film with a solid cast.
Jason Clarke (Mudbound) portrays Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy. He has headed to Martha’s Vineyard for an annual sailing regatta. The Kennedy family has a cottage on the adjoining Massachusetts island of Chappaquiddick. At a party there with female campaign workers known as the “boiler room girls”, he spends most of his time talking to Mary Jo Kopechne, played by Kate Mara (House of Cards, Meagan Leavey). She is a former secretary for Ted’s late brother Robert. Despite being married to Joan (who did not make the trip to the regatta), played by Andria Blackman, Ted, who is drunk, takes Mary Jo on a late-night drive. We see his car go off a short wooden bridge into the water. Ted is able to get out of the car and make it to land, but rather than trying to save Mary Jo, he walks back to the cottage.
Back at the cottage, Ted tells cousin and friend Joe Gargan, played by Ed Helms (The Hangover, The Office) that there is a problem, that he will never be president. Joe and Massachusetts Attorney General Paul Markham, played in a serious role by comedian Jim Gaffigan, tell Ted that he must report the crime to the police, but he delays an incredible nine hours until after the body is recovered, before going to the office of the local police chief. Instead, Kennedy is already working on his alibi. We see him call his 80-year-old father Joseph, played by two-time Oscar nominee Bruce Dern (Nebraska, Coming Home). Joseph has suffered a stroke and has difficulty speaking.
With John and Robert dead, Ted is the heir apparent to the Kennedy political dynasty. The Kennedy machine, led by speechwriter Ted Sorensen, played by Taylor Nichols, and former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, played by Clancy Brown (The Shawshank Redemption, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.), kicks into high gear to protect Ted and his chance of being president.
Themes include lies and coverup, parental expectations and choosing character over expedience. Content issues include some adult language.
Chappaquiddick is based on the true story of a late-night accident that resulted in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, and the lies and coverup that followed. It is a well-made and acted film, particularly Jason Clarke in his portrayal of Ted Kennedy and Bruce Dern as the ailing Joseph Kennedy. I think the film could have been more effective if historical footage would have been mixed in.