This historical drama about the Kennedy tragedy has been overlooked
With a presence in American politics since 1895, the Kennedys remain one of the most famous families in the history of the country. Despite their prominence, however, the family has been affected by many personal tragedies dating back to the middle of the 20th century. Some have even believed that a curse overshadows the Kennedy legacy, including Ted Kennedy who, in 1969, was involved in a tragic event on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.
48 years later, director John Curran he brought the story to the silver screen with Chappaquiddick. Featuring a stellar ensemble including Kate Mara, Ed Helms, Jim Gaffigan, Bruce Dernand Jason Clarke like Kennedy, the 2017 film tells the story of what happened before and after the senator drove his car off a bridge and into a tidal pond. Consciously designed and powerfully implemented, Chappaquiddick provides an intimate look at the personal tragedy and political fallout that surrounded an infamous event in American history.
What happened on Chappaquiddick Island?
While on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard on the night of July 18, 1969, Ted Kennedy was visiting with friends and political supporters. Among the group were the “Boiler Room Girls”, six women who worked on Bobby Kennedy’s presidential campaign the year before, and among them was 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara). After spending the night drinking and socializing, Kennedy and Kopechne left the party in his car, and on the way to nearby Edgartown, Kennedy lost control of the vehicle. while crossing a narrow Dike bridge, falls first into Poucha Pond. Although he managed to escape, Kopechne did not and eventually died.
About 10 hours after the accident, the car containing Kopechne’s lifeless body was recovered. No autopsy was performed, and drowning was determined as the official cause of death, although some have argued for another possibility. Based on the situation in which he found a body, a rescue diver John Farrar Kopechne appeared to survive for a time in an air pocket, saying, “She didn’t drown. I know she suffocated when the oxygen ran out.”
Accounts differ as to exactly what happened after Kennedy’s car went into Poucha Pond. According to the grandfather, who stayed several hours to report what happened to the authorities, he made several attempts to save Kopechne after the accident, seeking the help of his cousin , Joe Gargan. (played by Ed Helms in the film), and close associate, Paul F. Markham (played by Jim Gaffigan). according to people, Kennedy would later claim that he did not contact authorities immediately because “I was overcome, I’m honest to say, with a mixture of emotions: sadness, fear, doubt, exhaustion, panic, confusion and shock .” Although reluctant to tell the police about the accident, he made several phone calls to family members, counselors and lawyers.
How historically accurate is ‘Chappaquiddick?’
Although questions about what happened on that terrible night will likely never be answered, John Curran’s film achieves a level of convincing detail through available information. But Chappaquiddick it does not use a purely forensic approach to compile a timeline. Basing their screenplay on a 1,000-page document from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, writers Andrew Logan and Taylor Allen evenly balancing historical fact with dramatic interpretation, adding a level of mystery and suspense that occasionally sees the film cross into political thriller territory. As Curran said, “The two people who really know what happened that night are dead: Ted and Mary Jo,” and ChappaquiddickThe show of events at mercy is an individual, personal testimony. Since no one can be sure exactly what happened and when, the film paints with broad narrative and thematic strokes, raising moral questions regarding the nature of political power, media manipulation, and accountability.
Jason Clarke Leads an Impressive Ensemble of Actors in ‘Chappaquiddick’
Mostly known as a versatile character actor in supporting roles, Jason Clarke’s lead turn as Ted Kennedy is among his best. He avoids a one-size-fits-all approach and instead plays Kennedy with moral ambiguity and contradiction. It’s an understated performance that offers a nuanced view of Kennedy that leaves room for sympathy despite temptations to pity or judgment. Although Chappaquiddick could have been a damning indictment or an unintended defense of the legacy senator and his actions, Clarke avoids the trappings of such a black-and-white approach to a character with shades of grey, and at the heart of his design is the paradoxical. a struggle between arrogance and acute self-doubt.
Surrounding Jason Clarke is a great ensemble, with Ed Helms and Jim Gaffigan playing against their usual senses of humour. Bruce Dern, speaking only one sinister word while on screen, is a memory like Joseph Kennedy Sr., brings family drama to the fore in the film and highlights the bitter, painful tension between the patriarch and his youngest son. And although her screen time is limited, Kate Mara honors the memory of Mary Jo Kopechne with a sensitive, soulful portrayal of a woman who was largely relegated to the margins of her own horror story.
Why was ‘Chappaquiddick’ overlooked when it was released?
Released just months after the #MeToo movement gained momentum, Chappaquiddick shines a light on the conflicting relationship between men and women in terms of power dynamics. Undoubtedly a powerful man with his connections in politics and social circles, Ted Kennedy’s avoidance of legal consequences is a clear example of the kind of privilege and access that elitists enjoy, highlighting the treatment between -difference between those with and without effects. Director Iain Curran commented on the relevance of his film to today’s social dynamics by stating Smithsonian magazine, “It’s imperative that we take a hard, unvarnished look at our heroes today. It’s time to let all these guys skate by. I think if this story happened a- now, that it would cast a shadow on the land of the moon.”
Despite their historical appeal, thematic relevance, and overall strengths through performance and storytelling, Chappaquiddick it was largely overlooked upon release. Although it received generally positive reviews, the film was not a box office draw, possibly due to the lack of familiarity with the subject among younger generations of moviegoers. But it remains a film of undeniable power and craft, taking viewers through a tragic event that is a microcosmic examination of the broader implications of political scandal, public opinion, and the practice of law.