Last night I rented the movie Chappaquiddick.
And I can see why it didn’t get a whole heck of a lot of media attention.
It isn’t kind to the Kennedys – specifically the old Boozehound of the Senate himself, Teddy.
Now, don’t get me wrong. It isn’t a relentless flogging of the drunken lout and lady killer (literally).
And I think that’s exactly what makes it all the more damaging.
The entire film spans only one week – from Friday, July 18 to Friday, July 25, 1969.
But what a week it was.
By the time stumble-bum Ted makes his nationally-televised address to salvage his career and portray himself as the victim, you are thoroughly disgusted with the man.
Unless you’re a Democrat.
Then you’re probably thoroughly disgusted with the filmmakers for making you feel thoroughly disgusted with Ted Kennedy.
It has always astonished me that driving drunk off a bridge, leaving a woman to drown (or suffocate) then waiting almost half a day to go to the police wasn’t enough to ruin that fat, bloated creep.
And it isn’t just because he’s a Democrat.
I think even a Democrat who wasn’t a Kennedy would be completely ruined – and rightfully so – for killing a woman and then slinking away and not even calling the friggin’ police.
The movie makes good use of Ted’s cousin (and lawyer) Joseph Gargan.
Gargan, along with Paul Markham, are the two men who go back to the bridge with Kennedy sometime after the accident. The two attempt to gain access to the submerged Oldsmobile in order to find Mary Jo.
Gargan was also the one urging Kennedy to report the accident.
But Kennedy doesn’t. Instead, he goes back to Martha’s Vineyard and goes to bed.
And it is Gargan’s character who becomes the voice of the mortified audience – disgusted at the damage control from the Kennedy “crisis management” team that takes over in the days following the incident.
Gargan is the one who cannot believe that Ted Kennedy would have the audacity to try and slither his way out of this to save his political career.
Chappaquiddick reveals a man who behaves more like a child desperate to lie his way out of a sticky situation without getting in trouble.
He first wants to say Mary Jo was at the wheel.
Then he gives a lie-filled statement to the chief of police.
Then he lets his crisis management team lead him around like a scolded pup while feeding lie after lie to police and reporters.
All the while the only thing that seems to matter to Ted is saving his ass and making Daddy happy.
Actor Jason Clarke does an incredible job blending that entitled arrogance and mind-numbing immaturity.
The film makes hay of Ted’s stupid decision to wear a neck-brace to Mary Joe’s funeral.
He finally makes a decision on his own without the crisis management team, and it’s an unmitigated disaster.
In fact the only line from his wife Joan in the entire movie is in the limo on the way to the funeral.
After Ted apologizes to Joan for the circus, she says, “Go fuck yourself, Ted.”
Chappaquiddick is about the Kennedy who didn’t measure up but believed his last name meant he deserved a greatness he did not possess.
No, Ted isn’t sympathetic in this movie.
He’s just plain pathetic.
Even the crisis management team of Kennedy stalwarts seem to realize that they’re having to settle.
John is gone.
And the only Kennedy left for them to hitch their wagons to is a drunk, bloated, irresponsible lightweight with the maturity of a frat boy.
Even after driving a woman off a bridge and leaving her to die without so much as a phone call to the police won’t stop them from fighting like hell to preserve the Kennedy Legacy.
Everyone around Ted is settling for what could only be described as the factory outlet store version of the Kennedy brand name.
And that includes Mary Jo Kopechne (played very convincingly by Kate Mara) who, after campaigning hard for Bobby, is willing to settle for Ted.
Chappaquiddick isn’t the most exciting movie you’ll ever see. After all, it isn’t an action film.
But one thing you can say about it, it takes the Kennedy Legacy and drives it off a bridge.
It’s definitely worth renting.
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