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Wick's Review

Created Apr 12, 2018 10:22PM PST • Edited May 31, 2020 06:12PM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Really Great 4.5

    Being a Kennedy came with compulsions, including sailing, drinking, womanizing, and the presidency, those last with fatal effect. Ted Kennedy’s date with death didn’t lead to another dead Kennedy, but to the manslaughter of a loyal supporter: Mary Jo Kopechne, a name familiar to baby boomers across America.

    Now, this very well done docudrama lays bare what happened before, during and after that infamous night.

    Chappaquiddick is a quintessential tale of 1-percenters lording over common Americans. The Kennedys were/are the ultimate 1-percenter family. Fourth son Teddy was the final scion of these patriarchal icons.

    He never repented Chappaquiddick. Hell, it was Uncle Ted who rousted his son and nephew for a late night trip to a ritzy bar in Palm Beach some 22 years after he left Mary Jo Kopechne to die. His nephew later stood trial for raping the woman he picked up that fateful night in 1991. Some role model, that Teddy.

    So, the Lion of the Senate is long overdue for a reckoning, half a century overdue, ever since July 18, 1969. Chappaquiddick does the deed with grace and a “true compass,” to use Senator Kennedy’s favorite term.

    It’s an exceptionally well crafted film, meticulously observed. Witness the Edgartown police car — a Rambler. More significantly, the parallel plotting of the Chappaquiddick incident with the Apollo Moon Landing is deftly employed, its irony left hanging in the air. After all, it was Teddy’s big brother Jack who challenged America to put a man on the moon. Then, One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind obsessed America as Teddy went on TV to confess he’d been kinda, sorta responsible for a woman’s death.

    Most impressive is the film’s facsimile of the Kennedy Machine in full gear, drowning the memory of a young woman so another Kennedy could maintain political viability. Their web of control throughout Massachusetts was vast and powerful. Still is — this story has taken half a century to make the big screen.

    Most admirably, the film gives Mary Jo Kopechne her due. As played by the estimable Kate Mara, she appears smart and pensive, the farthest thing from the bimbo she was long assumed to be. It also reveals she didn’t drown. She suffocated, slowly, while Sen. Edward Kennedy ran and hid. Now, let that hang in the air.

  3. Really Great 4.5

    Jason Clarke comes across as a linebacker-sized somewhat handsome man, making him a reasonable facsimile of Ted Kennedy. More importantly, he easily traverses from diffidence to Kennedy-esque oration. You could say he operated from a true compass.

    Kate Mara gives a very grounded performance as the benighted Mary Jo Kopechne. Mara’s not much likable. She doesn’t have to be as the serious and heartbroken Kopechne, who was only a year into grieving the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, for whom she worked, and who she worshipped.

    • Ed Helms plays awkward well, which works as Kennedy cousin Joey Gargan, saddled with looking after arrogant Teddy.
    • Bruce Dern is frighteningly good as stroke-addled Joe Kennedy Sr., confined to a wheelchair and months from dying. Dern infuses fearsome life into the old bastard.
    • Clancy Brown cuts an imposing figure as aged Whiz-Kid Robert McNamara.
    • Jim Gaffigan ambles along as another Kennedy crony, recently retired from the Justice Department as US Attorney for Massachusetts, appointed by RFK.
    • Taylor Nichols limns out Ted Sorensen.
    • Andria Blackman is appropriately blond, beautiful and angry as Joan Kennedy, Ted’s broken wife.
    • David De Beck doesn’t register as Sargent Shriver.
  4. Male Stars Really Great 4.5
  5. Female Stars Really Great 4.5
  6. Female Costars Great 4.0
  7. Male Costars Great 4.0
  8. Really Great 4.5

    Chappaquiddick is an outstanding film about the closest thing America has to a Shakespearean tragedy, formed by hubris and desire and privilege and corruption, then burnished by a patina of fame and fortune.

  9. Direction Really Great 4.5

    John Curran – bravo!

  10. Play Really Great 4.5

    Rookie writers Taylor Allen & Andrew Logan hit their first feature film screenplay out of the park.

  11. Music Great 4.0
  12. Visuals Perfect 5.0
  13. Content
  14. Risqué 1.7

    No sex, notwithstanding Ted Kennedy’s proclivities and rumors that ran rampant.

  15. Sex Titillating 1.6
  16. Violence Fierce 2.0
  17. Rudeness Salty 1.6
  18. Glib 1.3

    Chappaquiddick pulls several punches, as the most salacious rumors were never more than rumor. It does present Ted Kennedy as drinking heavily that July night on Martha’s Vineyard, and can anyone doubt it.

    It also takes artistic license in imagining personal conversations and interactions between Ted and his gofer cousin Joey, between Ted and Mary Jo, between Ted and old Joe Kennedy, etc. Given how pitched the drama is throughout the film, some of those scenes are surely heightened from what really happened.
    That’s small beer in the realm of docudramas. Hence the low circoreality rating of 1.8x actual reality.

    Smithsonian Magazine on the movie’s veracity

  19. Circumstantial Glib 1.8
  20. Biological Natural 1.0
  21. Physical Natural 1.0


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