Chappaquiddick Review

Chappaquiddick - Poster #1

The Kennedys are a family that is synonymous with America. They are essentially the closest thing we have to a royal family. Yet there is a certain level of tragedy that comes with the name. Of course, the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy immediately come to mind. But there is a lesser-known event that happened to John and Robert’s younger brother, Ted. That event is known as a Chappaquiddick incident. Is the film a good retelling of the incident or should the film have buried the incident in history?

Fortunately, Chappaquiddick is a compelling character drama bolstered by the incredible performance by star Jason Clarke. It’s certainly a film that’ll leave you hooked like Making a Murderer and The People vs. OJ Simpson did.

Chappaquiddick follows the real-life story about Ted Kennedy’s involvement in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne.

Chappaquiddick - Jason Clarke and Kate Mara

As someone who didn’t grow up during the film’s time period, Chappaquiddick sheds light on an interesting event in Ted Kennedy’s life. Director John Curran brings the time period to life with the costume design, production design, and camerawork. It has the look and feel of a 60s film without that gritty feel. Also, the pacing of the film is spot on as well. At no point does the film feels like it drags. Watching how Ted Kennedy gets away with a crime similar to binge-watching a docu-series such as Making a Murderer. That is to say, you want to know what happens next because the subject matter is so compelling.

In addition, the film is a great character study of Ted Kennedy. There’s a certain air of royalty when you mention the Kennedy name. Unfortunately, this notoriety also comes with the pressure of being a political success. After all, John F. Kennedy became president and Robert Kennedy was a favorite to become one too. They were both great men. Chappaquiddick shows the mindset of a man who’s stuck in the shadow of them both. Not to mention, the intense pressure to become president from Ted’s father, Joseph Kennedy. Even though they’re incredibly wealthy and famous, it’s not easy being a Kennedy. These are the moments where you feel for the character.

The times when you dislike him comes from the complete opposite. When he’s playing the system and using his family name to his advantage, that’s when you begin to dislike him. In today’s society when we’re conversing about the concept of white privilege, this is a good example of that concept. In fact, the film will leave you frustrated on how the events played out.

Chappaquiddick - Jason Clarke

This is why Ted Kennedy is such a complex character and Jason Clarke pulls it off perfectly. In what may be his best performance to date, Clarke brings a lot of emotion to the character. Sadness, panic, defiance, confidence, and anger are just some of the wide array of emotions that Clarke conveys in Chappaquiddick. It’s important to realize that the film wouldn’t be as good as it is without his stellar performance.

Ed Helms also provides a surprising performance as well. For an actor that’s synonymous with comedies, Helms holds his own in the dramatic department. Helms serves as the moral compass to Ted Kennedy. Helms evokes a lot of guilt and compassion in his performance. It just goes to show you that it’s easier for comedic actors to act in dramas than it is dramatic actors to act in comedies.

Although Kate Mara is listed high on the credits, she’s barely in the film. Also, the unrecognizable Bruce Dern is great as Joseph Kennedy, Ted’s father. He barely has any lines but his physical performance says so much.

Overall, Chappaquiddick is a compelling docudrama about a lesser-known event in the history of the Kennedys. The film wouldn’t be good at all if it weren’t for the stellar performance by Jason Clarke. It’s certainly a film that’ll appeal to today’s justice-seeking society.

Rating: 4/5 atoms

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