‘Chappaquiddick’: Just Another Political Drama

By Julia Wilson, Edited by Anthony Peyton

Every year tends to bring its slew of American political dramas and this year has been no different. Last year, there was the Academy Award nominated film The Post, and now there’s Chappaquiddick.

Chappaquiddick follows the incident that occurred on July 18, 1969 on Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts in which then Senator Ted Kennedy (played by Jason Clarke) drove his car with both him and passenger Mary Jo Kopechne (played by Kate Mara) off a narrow bridge into the channel. Kennedy was able to escape the car, however Kopechne was not and died. Kopechne’s death is widely attributed to Kennedy’s negligence as he was intoxicated, driving recklessly without a license, and failed to report the accident until the next morning.

Chappaquiddick succeeded in the angle it chose to take on this story. It sought to tell the truth about this incident the best it could. It was not favorable to Kennedy and well demonstrated the negligence he showed that night.

The film also provided a quite interesting and much needed commentary on corruption in politics. Corruption in politics is something that everyone knows about, but rarely want to talk about. Especially when it involves the widely loved yet highly corrupted Kennedy family. However, Chappaquiddick forces audiences to see this corruption and consider how this kind of corruption is taking place in today’s political climate.

One instance of this in the film is a scene that goes back and forth between Kennedy taking a bath and getting dressed at his hotel, and Kopechne is slowly dying still trapped in the car. The film also emphasizes how Kennedy is much more worried about his image than the fact that a woman died. This, coupled with its portrayal of the attempt to cover up the incident as much as possible, confronted audiences with the idea of political corruption.

Besides the angle of the story there isn’t anything else particularly noteworthy about Chappaquiddick. Its score was in no way compelling and the direction was overall unimpressive. It lacked any sort of new approach to such an overdone genre. It failed in the same way The Post did by following the almost formulaic method to making these movies.

Unlike Jackie, which featured a phenomenal score and direction, and I, Tonya, which stood out with its use of comedic interviews and breaking the fourth wall as a guide for the story, Chappaquiddick felt like every other American political drama you have ever seen.

Another place Chappaquiddick failed was in its acting. One thing in particular that bothered me about the acting was the failed attempt at an East Coast accent. Ed Helms, who played Kennedy’s cousin Joe Gargan, was especially guilty of this. He was also very inconsistent with this accent and by the end of the film he had pretty much completely stopped using it. Clarke, who played Kennedy, was also guilty of this. I also felt that Clarke’s approach to Kennedy was inauthentic and lazy.

Even though Chappaquiddick was formatted exactly how you would expect it to be, it did somewhat redeem itself with its commentary on political corruption.

My Rating: 67%

Acting: 2/4

Cinematography: 2.5/4

Story: 3.5/4

Enjoyability: 2.7/4