Mary Jo Kopechne was a secretary and political campaign specialist on New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy's secretarial staff. On the evening of July 18,1969, Ms. Kopechne was in attendance at a party with five other young ladies who were co-workers of hers. These six ladies were know affectionately as "The Boiler Room" girls by the rest of Kennedy's staff for their hard work and dedication to the campaign. The party was in honor of the ladies work and took place on Chappaquiddick Island, off the east coast of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. Ted Kennedy was also in attendance at this party. It is understood that Ms. Kopechne didn't know him well. At around 11:15pm Ted decided to leave the celebration and Ms. Kopechne desired to leave also, they left together. Ms. Kopechne's close friends were not aware that she left.
Chappaquiddick (2017) starring Kate Mara as Mary Jo Kopechne, Jason Clarke as Ted Kennedy and Ed Helms as Joe Gargan is the account of the incident that occurred after she leaves with Ted Kennedy and the aftermath that ensues. I will say that the film is well done in that it handles Ms. Kopechne's memory appropriately. The material that they were able to work with really painted a portrait of her as a victim and not blaming her for decisions made. The director, John Curran and writers, Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan seemed to take care and concern as to how the story was told and no cynicism was apparent. With that said, there was obviously no way to spin this story to shine Senator Ted Kennedy in an a good light.
Jason Clarke, Chappaquiddick (2017)
I really like Jason Clarke as an actor. He did a great job playing Senator Kennedy with large prosthetic teeth and red hair combed and cropped, the styling department did a great job creating a likeness here. Clarke's performance is well executed as the bumbling, dishonest, inconsistent and low-confidence Kennedy. The film really shines a light on how poorly this incident was handled and it made things seem as though Kennedy just wasn't that quick or smart for that matter. Though there is no way you could feel sorry for this character in American History, one could sympathize with how poorly his father the ailing Joe Kennedy played by Bruce Dern, treated him. Chappaquiddick (2017) shows that Ted is in fact the last Kennedy son, there was much public and political pressure to measure up in some ways to both his brothers' legacies. Unfortunately, the film must show how Ted even used this disposition as a poor tactic to pad his humiliation from the Chappaquiddick incident.
Ed Helms of "The Hangover" (2009) fame did a stellar job playing Kennedy's cousin Joe Gargan. Joe was a tortured character in this tale of deceit, misjudgement and carelessness. The film does a great job depicting how Ted's decisions affected him. Joe along with his childhood friend Paul Markham played by Jim Gaffigan were dragged into this immediately, forcing them to be unwillingly complicit. Chappaquiddick (2017) highlights how there was a fear and reverence towards the Kennedy name. The gravity alone that this name brought meant that the people of Massachusetts simply fell in line with Ted and his antics. The film shows us that, even though this man did much wrong they were going to help him through it.
Chappaquiddick (2017) is shot against beautiful backdrops created in Ipswich, Rowley and Newburyport Massachusetts. The set design accents much of the luxury and privilege that came with the high-end American lifestyles of this era. In this world that the film shows us, we are given an excerpt of how this privileged environment can, in some instances lead to poor behavior, bad judgements and a careless attitude. It almost seems to detach the ones living in it from the real world. When horrendous things occur or accidents happen, the people that live in these manufactured backdrops are not willing to face the consequences because it removes them from the comfortable world that luxury, privilege and even power provides.
The depiction of Senator Kennedy's actions will always be a black eye in the Kennedy legacy. The film maker handles this in a respectful manner. I recommend this film as an invaluable history lesson as to why honesty and integrity must come first no matter what the situation is or what it will cost.