Plot: In the wake of the deaths of his brothers John and Bobby, Ted Kennedy (Jason Clarke) has been earmarked as the heir apparent and is likely to tread on his family name for a presidential run. He intends to make use of some of Bobby’s campaign team, a group of young women known as the Boiler Room Girls, who he plans a special party around. The girls are joined by Ted and several of his close confidants, as a thanks for their hard work and to offer them a chance to become part of Ted’s campaign. One of the women present is Mary Jo (Kate Mara), who winds up getting a ride from Ted and her fate would be sealed in the process. Ted loses control and careens off a bride, but he is able to survive and keeps the incident hidden from everyone except for those closest to his interests. But what happened on that fateful night and the cover-up that followed, as well as in the days after the incident?
Entertainment Value: The story of Chappaquiddick is more than movie worthy, with an infamous, corrupt, and powerful family at the center of a mysterious event that left an innocent woman dead. The details of Kennedy’s role in the death remain shadowed in doubt, as there is no official, accepted story and the entire situation is so shady, it is hard to accept any information as gospel. This movie version is not political in a divisive sense, but it does cast some darkness on politicians in general and the lengths they might go to in order to retain power and influence. As with the real life events, this movie take is scary to think about, with human life placed secondary to political position and makes you wonder how many other times this kind of thing has happened. The pace is good here and the narrative is always engaging, thanks mostly to the intimate approach and lack of political agenda. The material is treated with respect and never veers into melodrama, so all in all, I think Chappaquiddick is a well crafted, capable historical drama that is worth a look to those interested.
An impressive cast was assembled for this one, with Jason Clarke in the lead as the troubled Ted Kennedy. He has little physical resemblance to the real life Kennedy, but that is forgotten quickly, as he is able to convey the overall presence and disappears into the role. He is asked to carry much of the movie and he does so, with one of his finest performances and one that doesn’t come off like an imitation or exaggeration, but a grounded take on Kennedy. He commands the screen and to me, his performance alone warrants a watch of Chappaquiddick. Kate Mara has a small role, which is a shame given that her real life counterpart lost her life in the incident, but she plays the part with skill and has an unforgettable sequence. That would be my main issue with the movie itself, as I think a little more focus on Mary Jo would have been welcome, but Mara does her justice here. Bruce Dern also deserves immense praise, in a difficult and limited role that he absolutely nails. The cast also includes Ed Helms, Jim Gaffigan, Olivia Thirlby, and John Fiore.