This suspenseful historical thriller examines the infamous 1969 death of Mary Jo Kopechne, who drowned after Senator Ted Kennedy drove off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, and the moral and legal complexities that play out over the following week.
What We Thought:
Chappaquiddick is one of my favorite movies of the year so far. Jason Clarke is fantastic as Ted Kennedy and it’s a story the family has tried to bury for years. Sure the movie isn’t probably 100% accurate (no one will ever truly know since both Mary Jo and Ted are now dead), but it’s great seeing a movie that’s not afraid to take on the Kennedy name and show them in a negative light.
If you aren’t familiar with the story, Ted Kennedy killed a girl in 1969. He drove his car off a bridge, it landed in the water and Mary Jo Kopechne died because of him. He was drunk, escaped the crash and left her for dead. The film shows him trying to save her a bit, but ultimately he leaves and doesn’t get proper help. The authorities say if he got help even within a few hours, the woman could have survived. Papa Joe Kennedy would help bury the story and manipulate it enough that Ted was never seen as the killer he was. That same weekend we landed on the moon so despite being dead for years at that point, Brother Jack helped his younger brother Ted by having the country be captivated about the moon landing instead of all the news being about Mary Jo’s death and Ted’s drunk behavior.
Clarke is pretty great as Ted Kennedy. His mannerisms and accent are pretty solid and at times you feel for Ted living in his family’s legacy, but never quite forgive him for his actions. This happened in 1969 and for decades the people of Massachusetts kept re-electing Ted despite the tragic event. It just shows the power the family had/has and how they could change the narrative completely. Clarke is an underrated actor and this proves he should be considered for awards sooner rather than later.
The big surprise is the supporting cast. Ed Helms and Jim Gaffigan both give good performances in non-comedic roles. I’ve seen dramatic performances from them before, but both actors showed more range here especially Gaffigan. The more I see of him in dramatic turns, the more I like. Bruce Dern plays Joe Kennedy and Dern is always good.
Anytime the Kennedys can be shown in a different light is a good thing. If you aren’t familiar with the story it will probably be eye-opening, but I was born and raised in Boston so it’s not news to me. If you haven’t seen the film, watch it.
- “A Reckoning: Revisiting Chappaquiddick” Featurette
- “Bridge to the Past: Editing the Film” Featurette
Cast & Crew:
- Bruce Dern
- Clancy Brown
- Ed Helms
- Jason Clarke
- Jim Gaffigan
- Kate Mara
- Olivia Thirlby