Maureen Callahan writes: Nearly 50 years after Senator Ted Kennedy left a young woman to die in a shallow pond — and America went on to reward him with a lifelong career in the US Senate — we are finally beginning to reckon with the Kennedy myth.
But only just.
The new film “Chappaquiddick” is, to date, the most brutal and honest account of what happened that night. But it’s also something else: an indictment of our collective hero worship at the altar of Brand Kennedy, which bred so much corrosive entitlement that surviving brother Ted, the family beta male, went home to sleep it off after leaving a loyal young staffer to die alone.
“Chappaquiddick” is a much-needed counterweight to two current hagiographies: CNN’s docuseries “The Kennedys,” airing to high ratings on Sunday nights, and Netflix’s forthcoming documentary “Bobby Kennedy for President.”
JFK and RFK remain, of course, the family lodestars. But in 1969 Ted was next in line, and he had a lot of public sympathy.
His brother Robert had been assassinated while campaigning for president the year before. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Ted himself barely survived a plane crash in 1964, dragged to safety by Senator Birch Bayh (the irony) and hospitalized for five months. It was assumed, within the family and without, that Ted would run for president in 1972. He had three small children and, the July weekend he went partying in Chappaquiddick, a pregnant wife at home confined to bed rest.
As portrayed by Jason Clarke, the young senator is a venal, self-pitying coward, thoughtless and remorseless, ambition his only care. He treats loyalists and groupies with equal contempt, and as the weekend begins, he toasts them all for “wanting to prove yourselves worthy of . . . the Kennedy name.” Read the rest of this entry »
The movie isn’t a hit piece, but the history it tells is infuriating.
Kyle Smith writes: Chappaquiddick must be counted one of the great untold stories in American political history: The average citizen may be vaguely aware of what happened but probably has little notion of just how contemptible was the behavior of Senator Ted Kennedy. Mainstream book publishers and Hollywood have mostly steered clear of the subject for 48 years.
“If Chappaquiddick had been released in 1970, it would have ended Kennedy’s political career.”
Chappaquiddick the movie fills in an important gap, and if it had been released in 1970, it would have ended Kennedy’s political career. (It was only a few weeks ago that a sitting senator resigned over far less disturbing behavior than Kennedy’s.) Yet this potent and penetrating film is not merely an attack piece. It’s more than fair to Kennedy in its hesitance to depict him as drunk on the night in question, and it also pictures him repeatedly diving into the pond on Chappaquiddick Island, trying to rescue his brother Bobby’s former aide Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara). He may or may not have made such rescue attempts. Moreover, as directed by John Curran (The Painted Veil), the film is suffused with lament that a man in Kennedy’s position could have been so much more than he was. Yet Ted, the last and least of four brothers, was shoved into a role for which he simply lacked the character. That the other three were dynamic leaders who died violently while he alone lived on to become the Senate’s Jabba the Hutt is perhaps the most dizzying chapter of the century-long Kennedy epic. Read the rest of this entry »
Nearly five decades ago, on July 18, 1969, a car went off the Dike Bridge on the island of Chappaquiddick. The driver, Ted Kennedy escaped. His 28-year-old passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, did not.
An upcoming movie, Chappaquiddick, attempts to tell the story of what happened that night and why it took Kennedy some ten hours to report the accident to the local Edgartown police …
… The film, directed by John Curran, stars Jason Clarke as Senator Kennedy, Kate Mara as Kopechne, and Bruce Dern as Ted’s father Joe Kennedy. It’s based on the 1969 inquest into the accident. Read the rest of this entry »