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MOVIE REVIEW

Chappaquiddick also known as “El escándalo Ted Kennedy,” “The Last Son,” “Η ενοχή του Κένεντι”

MPAA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPAA) for thematic material, disturbing images, some strong language, and historical smoking.

Reviewed by: Maggie Hays
CONTRIBUTOR

Somewhat Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
• Teens • Young-Adults • Adults
Genre:
History Political Thriller
Length:
1 hr. 41 min.
Year of Release:
2017
USA Release:
October 24, 2017 (festival)
April 6, 2018 (wide—1,560 theaters)
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Relevant Issues
Copyright, Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures

Does character matter in political leaders? Answer

What part should morality play in politics? Answer

What is LYING? Answer

What is TRUTH? Answer

political cover-ups

selfishness

Does character matter in political leaders? Answer

What part should morality play in politics? Answer

What is SIN AND WICKEDNESS? Answer

What is GOODNESS? Answer

What is RIGHTEOUSNESS? Answer

Copyright, Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures
Featuring: Jason ClarkeTed Kennedy
Kate MaraMary Jo Kopechne
Ed HelmsJoe Gargan
Bruce DernJoe Kennedy
Clancy BrownRobert McNamara
Olivia Thirlby … Rachel Schiff
Jim Gaffigan … Paul Markham
Andria Blackman … Joan Kennedy
Sarah Elizabeth Mitchell … Senate Secretary
John Fiore … Chief Arena
Taylor Nichols … Ted Sorensen
See all »
Director: John Curran—“The Painted Veil” (2007)
Producer: Apex Entertainment
Chimney [Sweden]
See all »
Distributor: Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures

“The untold true story”

Copyrighted, Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures

Bryon Allen, the producer of Chappaquiddick, said in a TV interview that “powerful people” tried to “pressure him” to “not release this movie.” However, he said he is “not about the right or the left, he’s about truth.”

Many of us remember the incident well. For those too young to recall details, Ted Kennedy was the last surviving brother of the four Kennedy boys. Their ambitious, domineering father (Joseph P. Kennedy, former U.S. Ambassador to England, 1938-late 1940) wanted a son to be President of the United States. Each promising young man, in order of age, succumbed to violent circumstances (Jack and Bobby actually being assassinated). Ted, the youngest, was Joe Kennedy’s last great hope to have a son in the White House. As Senator of Massachusetts, things looked promising for Ted’s presidential run in 1972.

However, on the night of July 18, 1969, the dream disappeared in a puff of exhaust smoke from a 1967 Oldsmobile Delmont 88 that flew off a wooden bridge into a pond. Kennedy wasn’t exactly a great driver. While attending law school at the University of Virginia, he was cited for reckless driving four times, including once when he was clocked driving 90 miles per hour in a residential neighborhood with his headlights off after dark. And, he was given to making questionable decisions. While attending Harvard he was expelled twice, once for cheating on a test, and once for paying a classmate to cheat for him. It would seem that his behavior on the night of July 18 was not too far out of character for him.

Kennedy had hosted a party following an annual Regatta. Attenders were his staff and “the boiler room girls” who worked on Bobby Kennedy’s presidential campaign. Mary Jo Kopechne was 28 years old, idealistic, and pretty. She was a passenger inside Kennedy’s car when it careened off the Dike Bridge that fateful night, hitting the water upside down and immediately sinking to the bottom. Kennedy quickly exited the vehicle, leaving Kopechne trapped inside. He later said that he dove back into the water several times trying to extricate her from the car, to no avail.

Kennedy did not report the incident to authorities for almost ten hours, and Kopechne’s body had actually already been recovered. This is not a good situation in which a presidential hopeful would want to find himself. Scandal seems to be common to politics, but this one involved the unreported death of a young woman—possibly involuntary manslaughter. Did she drown or did she instead suffocate due to a depleted air pocket? How long did it take her to actually die? If Kennedy had immediately reported the accident to authorities, would she have survived the incident? These are questions that come to mind when viewing this film.

When you see this movie, you will draw your own conclusions about Ted Kennedy’s behavior during this incident. The film does not paint a pretty picture of him. He is portrayed as self-absorbed, self-centered, manipulative, a liar, and primarily concerned with saving his career. He shows little remorse over Kopechne’s death. Saving his own skin takes center stage.

Objectionable Language—The Names of God, Jesus, and Christ are misused at least seven times. Kennedy’s wife tells him “F*ck yourself, Ted.” We hear “H*ll,” “Sh*t,” “A*s” “B*tch” and “D*mn” several times each.

Violent Content—Ted angrily wrestles with a man during an argument and is thrown to the floor. Ted’s father slaps his face in anger.

Skimpy clothing—Kopechne talks with a girlfriend on the beach while they both wear swimsuits fashionable for that time period. One is two-piece, no bikinis are visible. Two men are seen in wet underwear after attempting to pull Kopechne from the water.

Alcohol use—There are many scenes of people drinking obviously hard liquor. There are two scenes of people passed out on the floor from drinking all night and many beer cans and liquor bottles strewn about.

Smoking or Drugs—There is no obvious drug use, though there are many scenes in which people are smoking cigarettes.

Sex—No sexual activity is obvious. However, the initial party on the night of the accident is not for husbands and wives. Staffers and “boiler room girls” are together, drinking and dancing. Mary Jo leaves the party with Ted Kennedy, in a suggestive situation, sitting side by side in the front seat of the car. Mary Jo is seen several times talking with Ted in a tender, encouraging kind of way that most Christians would assume to be reserved only for a close husband/wife relationship. “Separate yourselves from all appearance of evil” (I Thess. 5:22).

Disturbing Images—The car crash itself is a frightening image, repeated several times. Several scenes show Kopechne trapped in the car, desperately gasping for breath, crying, and praying. Kopechne’s dead body also is shown several times, once on the bridge when they try to express water from her lungs. These vivid scenes will alarm young children.

Morality Issues—Our Savior said “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’. Anything more comes from the evil one.” (Matt. 5:37). This film presents lie after lie, layered upon lie-filled layer. Some folks would call them cover-ups, excuses, or spin-doctoring. No matter what you call it——a lie is a lie, and the lies in this movie appear like so many cockroaches scattering from the light of truth, to save Kennedy’s neck and political career.

“But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and ALL LIARS, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” —Rev. 21:8

For me, the most disturbing part of the film is the rampant dishonesty. The lying by Kennedy, his family, his aids, his attorneys seems to have no limit and is void of all conscience—whatever it takes to keep him in the Senate. At all costs, any lie is not too big. When Kennedy calls his father for help and advice, the old man, who can hardly talk, utters one word—“Alibi.”

What a profound film. I would highly recommend teens to see this movie, and by all means—youth groups. It is a great opportunity to teach on honesty and integrity. And, perhaps, to look behind politicians backs when they speak, to see if their fingers are crossed.

  • Violence: Minor
  • Profane language: Moderate
  • Vulgar/Crude language: Moderate
  • Nudity: Minor
  • Sex: None
  • Occult: None

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive
Positive—Visiting Massachusetts in the mid seventies, I was invited to the Kennedy compound at Hyannis Port and sat in JFK’s pew, so having a strong memory of the 1969 Chappaquiddick tragedy I was drawn to this movie and really enjoyed it, though it is very troubling how much influence the Kennedy clan had to cover things up and come out smelling like roses.

The acting was excellent and, although there is little action, the story kept my attention throughout. I had forgotten that another key event happened two days later that greatly served Senator Edward Kennedy in his seemingly doomed political course.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Christopher Winter, age 63 (USA)

PLEASE share your observations and insights to be posted here.

Movie Critics
…“Chappaquiddick” is a smart, damning take on an American tragedy… What the movie doesn’t do, until it’s nearly over, is make any real case for why so much of America continued to put their faith in Kennedy long after the facts of the case were revealed. …But “Chappaquiddick” is less about relitigating an American tragedy — or making full sense of the figures behind it — than in casting a light, however brief, on one more dark corner of the deathless Kennedy myth. [B+]
Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly
…A meticulous docudrama rivetingly recounts the tragic car accident and its aftermath — an event of criminal negligence and cover-up — that defined the life of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy… “Chappaquiddick” is exactly what you want it to be: a tense, scrupulous, absorbingly precise and authentic piece of history — a tabloid scandal attached to a smoke-filled-room travesty. …a fascinating study of how corruption in America works. It sears you with its relevance…
Owen Gleiberman, Variety
…fascinating… CHAPPAQUIDDICK is one of the best political exposes since the original ALL THE KING’S MEN and FROST V. NIXON. …the jeopardy and villainy are mesmerizing… This movie should be seen by older teenagers and adults, and viewed in every political science, civics and history class in the nation. …
Ted Baehr, Movieguide
…‘Chappaquiddick’ plays it fair, appeasing neither Kennedy family fans nor its haters… the details of the crime and its coverup are even more damning than the incident’s gossipy aspects would suggest… [3/4]
Alan Zilberman, The Washington Post
…we discover the true soul of the Kennedys. When Ted returns to the house where the aforementioned party takes place — and leaves Mary Jo’s body in the car –the first words out of his mouth are, “We’ve got a problem, I’m not going to be president.” …
Joe Simonson, The Daily Caller
…Jason Clarke impresses as the last Kennedy brother… [4/5]
Jordan Hoffman, The Guardian (UK)
…Jason Clarke excels in compelling Teddy Kennedy biopic that pulls no punches… That Teddy knew the right thing to do and refused to carry through is the film’s consistent message, though it’s never delivered in a heavy-handed manner. …[A-]
Kate Erbland, IndieWire
…‘Chappaquiddick’ is a dive into the sickness of entitlement…There’s not an anachronistic moment in the film—everything is meticulously recreated… The events that follow are told with a firm yet sensitive hand…
Sarah Lee, Red State
…A detailed but less than gripping account…
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter