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article imageReview: ‘Chappaquiddick’ explores the accident that destroyed dreams Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Apr 15, 2018 in Entertainment
‘Chappaquiddick’ is a look inside the cover-up that destroyed the Kennedys’ last hope of getting another man in the White House.
There was a time when many people believed the Kennedys were destined to do great things. Then it began to appear as if their fates were shrouded in death, preventing them from fulfilling all the great promise they demonstrated. Yet, the legacy lived on and the hope that someone in the family would take up the torch endured. One brother remained and everyone’s aspirations for the family and country hung on his success… and then the accident happened. Ted Kennedy wasn’t like his brothers, Jack and Bobby, and Chappaquiddick shows how he cracked under the pressure of greatness and tragedy.
After a successful campaign for senator, Ted (Jason Clarke) was celebrating with the team that helped him win, which included the “boiler room girls” and Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara). He was trying to convince Mary Jo to come back and work for his office… though anything more than that is strictly speculation. In the end, a late-night drive following many drinks left Ted’s car at the bottom of a lake with Mary Jo still inside. In the hours and days that followed, his friends and advisors attempted to salvage his reputation and save Ted’s upcoming presidential bid; but they were trying to do so with little cooperation from the man himself.
Ted had big shoes to fill, and everyone expected him to be able to seamlessly take up his brothers’ footsteps and do just that. But what this movie demonstrates is even though he possessed some of their charm, he was not born with the same ability to strategize — a fact his ailing father (Bruce Dern) seemed to be all too aware of and for which he consequently castigated him regularly. Yet, surrounded by men employed to do his thinking for him — several of which that had worked with one or the other Kennedys — Ted dismisses their advice and makes his own decisions, generally resulting in avoidable disaster that makes headlines across the country. In short, Ted is not painted in the best of light… though perhaps his ineptitude saved him from the so-called family curse.
Clarke was an interesting choice for this role, but he pulls it off rather flawlessly by mostly conquering the signature drawl. From grabbing the attention of every room Ted entered to being foolishly stubborn, Clarke nails it. Mara, on the hand, is a surprise choice for the part of Mary Jo; not only because it’s somewhat inconsequential — the woman in the car could’ve been anyone since her identity was less important than her gender — but also because Mara is denied the opportunity to do anything more with the role. Mary Jo is clearly a smart and capable young woman, but the fact that she’s also smitten seems to overwhelm her other attributes. Conversely, Ed Helms plays the supporting role of Ted’s cousin/confidante/lawyer/friend Joseph Gargan and he does wonderful things with such subtlety that he nearly outshines everyone on screen. There are a lot of familiar faces amongst Ted’s “yes men,” but Helms captures the heart of a man who’s always been in the shadow of his loved ones.
Only those present could ever confirm the accuracy of this portrayal, but for those who wondered it does explain why Ted never fulfilled the Kennedy prophesy.
Director: John Curran
Starring: Jason Clarke, Ed Helms and Jim Gaffigan
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