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"Chappaquiddick" Movie Review

Updated on December 17, 2021
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Nathan is a film critic and aspiring author with a true passion for the film industry who hopes his writings will help launch his career.

Have you ever made a mistake, tried to cover it up with a lie, and found yourself in worse trouble than you were to begin with? We all have at some point. Former Senator Ted Kennedy certainly did. But over the course of this review, as I tell you not only my thoughts on the film but also on the event itself, I want you to ponder on this one question and when you're done reading I want you to honestly answer this question: Would you tell the truth in a dire situation even if that means giving up your career, risking tarnishing your reputation, and possibly ruining your marriage; or, would you lie and contort the truth in an effort to protect everything you have?

Chappaquiddick tells the story of the night that almost ruined Ted Kennedy. On July 18, 1969, Ted Kennedy and Mary Jo Kopechne were on a drive. He went down an unfamiliar road (in order to evade a cop apparently) and went off a bridge. The car flipped over and sank to the bottom of the river, settling on its hood. Ted got out, most likely flung from the car during the accident, but Mary Jo was trapped inside and drowned. The film focuses on the subsequent week as Ted and his staff try to spin the story and bend the truth so that Ted might just avoid criminal charges and save his career and reputation.

As I watched the film, I couldn't help but wonder who exactly decides what goes in history books and what is left out. I never learned about this in history class. As interesting as Paul Revere is, everyone knows that story. I want to know about things like this, the dark side of history. From what I've researched over the past couple days, the film kept as close as possible to the actual events. There's no way of 100% for sure knowing what happened that night as Ted and Mary Jo were alone, but it's quite obvious that it's something he didn't want to own up to. He tried to play the victim card, the injured card and every card he could in order to save face. He was more concerned about his presidential campaign than he was about the sorrow and grief he caused that poor girl's family. If that's not true to life then I don't know what is.

However, I do think that, overall, Ted was a good person. He had an overbearing father and he lived in the shadows of his brothers JFK and Bobby. Ted wanted to be great like them and I think it was that mindset that was hammered into him that ultimately caused him to feel like he had no other choice than to lie. He was a human that made a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes. Am I making excuses for him or dismissing the fact that a smart, young woman drowned that night? Not at all. I'm saying he made a choice, as we all do, and he had to live with the consequences of that choice for the rest of his life, as we all do.

I have to give high marks all around for the performances in the film. Jason Clarke and Ed Helms were the two best, followed by the always astounding Kate Mara. Bruce Dern also stole the spotlight in one particular scene, and Clancy Brown was as intimidating as always. The writing and direction were top-notch as well, keeping the viewers invested and enthralled in the events unfolding before their eyes.

As I conclude, I'd like to go back to the question. What would you have done? Would you lie or would you tell the truth? Would you risk everything or would you try to save face? Would you own up to your actions and take responsibility? Or would you try to hide from it? I give the film a 4 out of 4.

© 2018 Nathan Jasper


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