Chappaquiddick (2017)
A review by Shlomoh Sherman
April 18, 2018

Chappaquiddick (2017)
Plot Summary: Depicting Ted Kennedy's involvement in the fatal 1969 car accident that claimed the life of a young campaign strategist, Mary Jo Kopechne.
Plot Keywords: 1960s - senator - scandal - car accident
Tagline: The Untold True Story
Storyline: The scandal and mysterious events surrounding the tragic drowning of a young woman, as Ted Kennedy drove his car off the infamous bridge, are revealed in this movie. Not only did this event take the life of an aspiring political strategist and Kennedy insider, but it ultimately changed the course of presidential history forever. Through true accounts, documented in the inquest from the investigation in 1969, director John Curran and writers Andrew Logan and Taylor Allen, intimately expose the broad reach of political power, the influence of America's most celebrated family; and the vulnerability of Ted Kennedy, the youngest son, in the shadow of his family legacy. Director: John Curran
Writers: Taylor Allen, Andrew Logan
Stars: Jason Clarke, Ed Helms, Jim Gaffigan
Genres: Drama - History - Thriller
Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)
Rated PG-13 for thematic material, disturbing images, some strong language, and historical smoking
Parents Guide: See below
Country: Sweden - USA
Language: English
Release Date: April 6, 2018 (USA) Filming Locations: Ipswich, Massachusetts, USA Box Office:
Opening Weekend USA: $5,765,854, April 8, 2018
Gross USA: $7,981,383, April 12, 2018
Company Credits:
Production Co: Apex Entertainment, Chimney, DMG Entertainment
Technical Specs:
Runtime: 106 min
Color: Color

Awards: Miami Film Festival 2018:
Nominee Jordan Alexander Ressler: Screenwriting Award
Nominees Taylor Allen, Andrew Logan: Best Screenplay


By this time, we all know that the Kennedy clan is cursed. We also know that the father and sons have been the epitome of moral degenerates. Yes, we all loved JFK even though he really did very little and even though LBJ was a far better president and accomplished far more than all the Kennedys put together. Both Jack and Bobby treated LBJ with disrespect but who got the last laugh?

CHAPPAQUIDDICK tells the story of Senator Ted Kennedy, beloved favorite son of Massachusetts, a criminal who got away with murder. Apparently, in America, if you are royalty, the law is different for you than it is for the rest of us serfs.

The film details the events of the tragic death of MaryJo Kopechne, a campaign worker who had assisted in the campaign of Bobby Kennedy in his bid for the presidency in 1968. She was friends with Ted Kennedy and many people think their relationship went beyond that of a platonic relationship but the movie makes no allusion to sex between them.

At a party on Chappaquiddick Island on the night of the accident, Senator Kennedy offered to drive MaryJo to the ferry back to the mainland. But the car did not follow the paved road to the ferry. Instead, it made a sharp right turn onto the dark dirt road leading to the beach. The car was travelling far too fast at night on a dangerous dirt road, emerging from a tunnel at a bend in the road where it drove on to a badly constructed bridge with no guardrails, spanning a shallow river of dark water. Kennedy drove the car off the bridge, into the water where it turned over, landing upside down in the current. MaryJo remained trapped inside the vehicle while Kennedy managed to escape and swim to the surface. Kennedy was an excellent strong swimmer and may have attempted to pull MaryJo out of the car but while he mysteriously managed to save himself, he left her inside to her fate. In 1969, the year of the accident, cars didn't have seatbelts and it is beyond me why he could not get her out as easily as he got himself out.

MaryJo is shown desperately trying to escape as water closes in, realizing that Kennedy isn’t coming back to save her. Gulping the remaining air and crying, she says the Hail Mary prayer as the water rises in the car.

Failing to rescue MaryJo, Kennedy's legal and moral obligation was to report the accident to the police immediately. Instead, he walked away and called his father, telling him that he was in trouble. Joseph Kennedy advised him to find an alibi and abruptly hung up. Although Kennedy's political team urged him to contact the police, Kennedy refused to do so. The next day, some boys walking across the bridge noticed the car's wheels protruding from the water and called the police.

The awful point of the film is that while his friend [and perhaps lover] was suffering a long and painful death, Senator Ted Kennedy thought more of his political career than of saving the life of the young woman!

Later that day, a local diver, John Farrar, told the police that he could have rescued Kopechne within 25 minutes had Kennedy reported the accident immediately.

Kennedy told his cronies that he couldn't remember how he escaped, only that he made his way to shore. [The movie doesn’t show how Kennedy managed to escape] He said he made many attempts to dive down and free Kopechne and finally realized that he was not able. He movie shows him running back to his cottage, passing houses where he could have used the neighbor's phone, and passing an emergency fire depot that had a security phone marked by a red light. But he chose not to call for help.

He told his cronies that he had had nothing to drink but one of them quietly remarked that no one goes to a party and has nothing to drink. [drunk driving is taken far more seriously today than it was in 1969] He also told them that he was going to say that MaryJo was driving the car.

What's obvious is that his fear of the consequences of drunk and reckless driving, and the questionable appearance of an attractive young woman in his car, caused Kennedy to delay reporting the accident. A United States senator traded her life for his political future.

Had he taken steps to have her rescued, the accident might have raised questions about his judgment or alcohol consumption, but they would have been more easily addressed with Kopechne to vouch for him. A drunk-driving case in an accident in which no one died would have been less harmful to him than the charge he ultimately faced, of leaving the scene of an accident, in which a person died.

To add to his cowardice and unethical behavior, rather than resign his Senate seat and retire to private life, Kennedy decided to continue in politics. This decision even offended his cousin Joe Gargan.

In court, Kennedy chose to wear a neck brace in order to gain sympathy with the judge and the public. The ruse fooled no one. Yet after delivering a nationwide TV speech of contrition, the voters of Massachusetts chose to overlook his behavior, seeing HIM as the hapless victim and hero who valiantly tried to save the maiden in distress. His career was ultimately saved by the country’s grief for his brothers. He spoke about the slain Bobby and the Kennedy curse. The voters forgave him everything. The last good day they’d had was November 21, 1963, the day before the assassination in Dallas.

The car accident happened on July 18, 1969. Just 2 days later, on July 20, 1969, America and the world watched as the first human being set foot on the moon.

Neil Armstrong remarked, "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind." Ted Kennedy's lack of moral fiber, the strength and ability to do what you think is right, even in a difficult situation, should have been a giant leap backward in the career of a criminal man, the Massachusetts senator, but it wasn't. It was a moral leap backwards for the voters who encouraged his depravity.

It's easy for me to compare Senator Ted Kennedy to O.J. Simpson. But bear in mind, O.J. committed his murder in a state of jealous rage, a crime of passion. In the case of Ted Kennedy, we have a man bloodlessly and coolly weighing his options to save his name and his career while an innocent young woman who clearly loved him choked to death in the Chappaquiddick waters.

Exodus 20:5 tells us that the iniquity of the fathers will be visited on the children and grandchildren and great grandchildren of those who hate God. The Kennedys have a hateful patriarch. Joe Kennedy was a foul mouthed antisemite.

Joe Jr, in 1934, said that the Nazi’s “dislike” of the Jews “well-founded,” to which Joe Sr replied that he was “very pleased and gratified at your observations of the German situation.” According to confidential German documents made public by the U.S. State Department in 1949, Joe Kennedy Sr met with the German Ambassador to Great Britain, Herbert von Dirksen, in June. Dirksen later informed Baron Ernst von Weizsaecker, State Secretary of the German Foreign Ministry, that Kennedy told him that the “Jewish question” was of vital importance to U.S.-German relations.
Most damning, however, was Kennedy’s assertion (in Dirksen’s words) that it “was not so much the fact that [the Germans] wanted to get rid of the Jews that was so harmful to [the Germans], but rather the loud clamor with which [the Germans] accompanied the purpose.” Kennedy attempted to set up a personal meeting with Adolf Hitler, failing to inform the State Department, but the meeting never materialized. As news of concentration camps came across the wires, Kennedy remarked to an embassy aide, Harvey Klemmer, “Individual Jews are alright, Harvey, but as a race they stink. They spoil everything they touch. Look what they did to the movies.” Klemmer also recounted Kennedy’s common terms for Jews: “kikes” or “sheenies.” Back in the U.S., Kennedy blamed Hollywood and its anti-German propaganda, specifically Charlie Chaplin and his Führer-mocking THE GREAT DICTATOR, for pushing America into the war. He also blamed the problematic “Jew media” and the “Jewish pundits in New York and Los Angeles” for trying to “set a match to the fuse of the world.”

The father hated Jews. The sons hated righteousness. Maybe there is Divine Justice after all in the tragic lives of the Kennedys.

The Kennedy reign has been compared to Camelot. But JFK was no King Arthur and Ted Kennedy was no Sir Lancelot. Far from it. The real heroes of Camelot practiced chivalry, the knightly system of religious, moral, and social codes. Obviously, as the film points out, Ted Kennedy's codes were cowardice and deception.

Read below, Jeffrey Young's April 7, 2018 review and see how it parallels my own

Political history retold
April 7, 2018 - by Jeffrey Young
Chappaquiddick is something that means anything to any American over the age of 55. Or else this is an interesting, little-remembered but not forgotten incident from the political history of the United States back in the sixth decade of the 20th century that has interest for college students of American History or Political Science.

Chappaquiddick marked the practical end of the Kennedy family political dynasty that was marked by the tragic assassinations of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 in Dallas, Texas, and in 1968 that of his younger brother, the aspiring Presidential candidate, Robert Kennedy, the former, formidable U.S. Attorney General.

Robert Kennedy enjoyed such a tremendous margin of popular support that his election as next U.S. president in November 1968 was considered a sure-thing, a shoo-in. It wasn't even considered necessary that Robert Kennedy even bother to campaign but campaign he did and was assassinated in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles in the summer of 1968. This is one of those seminal events that U.S. historians call a change in the course of history of the nation. It led to a change of American history in the November election of Republican Richard Nixon instead of the expected President Robert Kennedy. The Democrat Party and the Democrat sympathetic national mass media, Hollywood, national celebrities, et al, desperately looked to Ted Kennedy to carry on the Kennedy tradition, romanticized as, American Camelot, and become the de facto President Robert Kennedy that should have been.

Their faith and trust proved misplaced. Ted Kennedy was not of the right stuff his elder brothers had been, leading credence to the family rumors that Ted was the family black sheep.

Ted Kennedy avoided legal liability for breaking the law of leaving the site of an accident that he was directly involved in and also not contacting the authorities immediately after an accident. The American people were treated first hand to the reality of how family political power and wealth can cirmumvent legal justice.

They would not witness something similar until the criminal trial of OJ Simpson almost three decades later.

Yet in the ensuing decades, Ted Kennedy not only avoided political oblivion but succeeded beyond all imagination of becoming one of the most powerful U.S. senators in Congress. Ted appeased everyone by embracing any and all liberal causes and with the Kennedy family name and still formidable political power and wealth became an unbeatable U.S. senator that could never be realistically challenged by any fellow Massachusetts Democrat let alone any Republican foolhardy enough to try.

Ted Kennedy became above all political reproach in Massachusetts as a congressional senator and only his death ended his political career once and for all. Yet the incident of Chappaquiddick would stain Ted forever and preclude any hope of attaining the U.S. presidency, which many regarded a good thing as any U.S. president must be a man or woman with unquestionable personal courage, judgment under stress, and appropriate judgment.

After senator Ted Kennedy's death in 2010, Republican Scott Brown successfully campaigned to take Kennedy's vacated senate seat for the last two years of the late senator's term. During the abbreviated senatorial campaign, Scott Brown felt it necessary to lionize Ted Kennedy in all his campaign speeches to avoid antagonizing Massachusetts voters. Chappaquiddick the movie will prove how unnecessary it was Scott Brown to do so. Ted Kennedy was the last man to deserve it.

The writers and producers of Chappaquiddick have done the nation and the world a great service in showing the REAL Ted Kennedy, the womanizing, alcohloic, immoral criminal that he was. He took the name of an already disgraced family and brought it down to an even lower level.

KUDOS to Jason Clarke as Ted Kennedy. This amazing Australian actor becomes Kennedy in every facial expression, gesture, and voice modulation. We have seen him in Terminator Genisys as John Connor; among his other movies are Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Zero Dark Thirty, Twilight, Serenity, and Pet Sematary.
KUDOS to Kate Mara as Mary Jo Kopechne. Her credits include, among others, House of Cards, The Martian, Transcendence, Iron Man 2 and Brokeback Mountain
KUDOS to Bruce Dern as Joseph Kennedy. I have missed seeing Bruce in films. As a younger man, he was one of my favorite actors. Of course, the career of his daughter Laura has been outstanding. Bruce was seen in The Hateful Eight, Django Unchained, Big Love (TV Series), The Astronaut Farmer, Monster, The Haunting, Mulholland Falls, The Great Gatsby, They Shoot Horses Don't They? and many others. The one for which I remember him best is The Laughing Policeman.

Did You Know?

From the phone booth, Ted asks to make a collect call to his father. However, he never identifies himself as Ted Kennedy; just Ted; and never tells the operator whom he is calling.
Jason Clarke, who plays Ted Kennedy is this film, was born on July 17th, 1969, just one day before the Chappaquiddick incident on July 18th, 1969.
The extras to play the captain and the deckhand on the ferry sequence are actually captains and deckhands on the boat in real life dressed up to match their 60's counterparts
Though not mentioned in the movie, there were three other men at the cottage with Ted Kennedy, Joseph Gargan, and Paul F. Markham. They were Charles Tretter, Raymond La Rosa, and John Crimmins.
Part of the film was filmed in Rockport, Massachusetts.
When Ted is being chastised by his lawyers for his actions, they refer to his actions as "John Wayne stuff." Bruce Dern, who plays Joseph Kennedy, Sr. in this film, had previously appeared with Wayne in the film The Cowboys, killing his character. It was one of Wayne's few on-screen deaths.
How Ted Kennedy got out of the car has never been explained. Neither he nor all the investigators (and investigations) offered an explanation.
Chappaquiddick is the name of the island in Massachusetts where the accident occurred that killed Mary Jo Kopechne.
Joseph Kenny Sr. (Bruce Dern) has only three lines. Twice off screen he says "Alibi," while in person he only says "You'll never be great."

One of Kennedy's advisers uses the term "as pure as Mother Teresa." Although the BBC aired a documentary in the UK on Mother Teresa in 1969, it was not until 1971 that the US knew of her work through the book, " Something Beautiful for God."

Cypress Written by Alexander McCabe Performed by Alexander McCabe


MPAA Rated PG-13 for thematic material, disturbing images, some strong language, and historical smoking
Certifications: Australia:M Canada:PG (Alberta) Canada:PG (British Columbia) United States:PG-13 (certificate #51224)

Sex & Nudity:
Two women on the beach in bathing suits. Two men strip down to their underwear and jump in a lake to try and save a woman.

Violence & Gore:
A man is slapped unexpectedly in the face by another man.

Use of the "F" word - 2 times, "S" word - 2 times, "H" word 5 times, "B.S." word 3 times, "S.O.B". - 1 time.

Alcohol, Drugs & Smoking:
Empty beer cans scattered around a room after a man wakes up and then they are tossed out.
Smoke filled room during discussion but no one is seen smoking.

Frightening & Intense Scenes: [Spoilers]
A car goes over a bridge and ends up in the water.
A woman calls out for help before suffocating and finally dying.
Frequent flash-backs to this scene.

(Australian Actor Jason Clarke on Nailing Ted Kennedy's Voice to Play Senator in Chappaquiddick

Read about Chappaquiddick On the Internet Movie Data Base

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jason Clarke ... Ted Kennedy
Ed Helms ... Joseph Gargan
Jim Gaffigan ... Markham
Kate Mara ... Mary Jo Kopechne
Bruce Dern ... Joseph Kennedy
John Fiore ... Chief Arena
Gillian Mariner Gordon ... Cricket
Olivia Thirlby ... Rachel
Katie Henoch ... Suzy
Lexie Roth ... Nance
Angela Hope Smith ... Maryellen
Vince Tycer ... David Burke
Victor Warren ... Stephen Smith
Taylor Nichols ... Sorenson
David De Beck ... Sargent Shriver

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