By Marc S. Sanders
The morals of Senator Ted Kennedy were tested in July, 1969. While under the influence, he drove his car off a bridge that overturned into a pond. The Senator survived. Over 9 hours later, he reported that a passenger he was with drowned in the accident.
It’s terrible to think about the trust he retained following this incident. He was re-elected to office, and went on to become the 4th longest running Senator in American history. The parents of Mary Jo Kopeckni (Kate Mara) lost a daughter with a promising future.
Jason Clarke is excellent as the insecure son of an intimidating stroke stricken Joseph Kennedy Sr (Bruce Dern, effectively overpowering with paralyzed limitation), forced to walk in the shadows of his brothers John and Robert, both assassinated prior to this occurrence. Clarke is great as someone we are to be disapproving of, but for me personally I’m that much more disgusted by the Senator’s response.
Ed Helms is Ted’s cousin Joe who makes all efforts to make this right following the foolhardy actions that occur. Senator Kennedy tries to pride himself as a martyr for the state of Massachusetts, appearing as a victim with a false neck brace, claiming a concussion, hiding left over alcohol and sympathizing with the Kopeckni family. He identifies himself as a “moral compass.” Cousin Joe knows differently as the truly authentic moral character, yet he’s merely disregarded by the army of Kennedy spin doctoring.
Director John Curran will have you believe more of this story and it’s longevity in history did not amount to much considering this all occurred while Neil Armstrong was making his historic walk on the moon, ironically initiated by President John Kennedy. It’s a reason I believe the Senator sustained quite a successful career. Maybe not totally successful. I don’t recall another President Kennedy.
Curran maintains a picturesque image of Martha’s Vineyard and the slow gradual response of all the players, including a police chief who has no scuba gear and must resort to getting down to his skivies to search through the submerged car. The chief is also quite comfortable with accepting an eventual prepared statement followed by a release so the Senator need not concern himself.
None of this was pretty. None of this was Camelot. John Curran’s film reminds you of a young woman helplessly drowning, while the perpetrator did nothing but consider his chances at a Presidency from that point on.
Chappaquiddick is a must see film.