Film Review – Chappaquiddick (2017)

Title – Chappaquiddick (2017)

Director – John Curran (Tracks)

Cast – Jason Clarke, Ed Helms, Kate Mara, Bruce Dern, Jim Gaffigan, Olivia Thirlby, Clancy Brown

Plot – Examines the life of Ted Kennedy (Clarke) in 1969 when the presidential hopeful was involved in a fatal car accident on Chappaquiddick Island.

“You’ll never be great”

Review by Eddie on 22/10/2018

It’s safe to say the that the story of the Kennedy family will be one that is not soon forgotten among popular culture.

A family that in many ways personified what seemed to be the American dream, only to frequently find themselves front and centre of countless scandals and deeply tragic situations, the Kennedy’s make for fascinating subject matters, which makes the success of Chappaquiddick come as no surprise.

As a born and bred Australian and child of the 90’s, the story of Ted Kennedy and his headline making tragedy that occurred on Chappaquiddick island during the Apollo moon landing period of 1969 America is a story I wasn’t overly familiar with compared to the unfortunate lives of his brothers John and Robert but thanks to Australian based director John Curran and some fine lead turns, this well made and emotional drama is a fascinating insight into a life changing moment of the one-time wannabe president and the last great bastion of hope for the famed American family.

Those seeking out a genuine Ted Kennedy biopic will be left thoroughly disappointed by Curran’s picture, with the filmmaker getting stuck straight into things as we’re introduced to Jason Clarke’s Ted as a middle aged senator channelling his energy and attention on an upcoming presidential bid, only to have it come crashing down around him after a car he was in control of fly’s off a bridge killing Kate Mara’s other occupant Mary Jo Kopechne, but in doing so Curran crafts a fast moving and quietly devastating portrait of a man who made a very bad decision that in turn led to a life altering aftermath.

Supported by a strong supporting turn from usual funnyman Ed Helms as Ted’s long-suffering cousin and off-sider Joseph Gargan and solid bit parts from Mara and Bruce Dern as Ted’s ailing fatherly matriarch Joseph Kennedy, Chappaquiddick gives Jason Clarke what’s arguably his best Hollywood role yet with the continually impressive Aussie actor instilling Ted with the right amount of humanity and flawed confidence to make Curran’s examination work.

It’s a tricky role and one that would’ve ruined the film had it not work but Clarke is well and truly up to the challenge and as we walk alongside this man as his life steadily declines into a direction of ruin and regret, we begin to feel a true and well-earned empathy towards a man that wasn’t in any means a bad person, but one that made an incredibly bad decision, that in turn put the final nail in the coffin of a family legacy that should’ve and could’ve been so much more had time and chance conspired differently.

Final Say –

A focussed and non-biased examination of a terrible incident that refuses to lay blame or cater to innuendo around the real life occurrence, Chappaquiddick may be slight in some areas but Curran’s carefully constructed drama is one of the better Kennedy themed film’s so far that’s anchored by a terrific central turn from Jason Clarke.

4 neck braces out of 5

4 responses to “Film Review – Chappaquiddick (2017)

  1. Good review, Eddie. I dunno. Can’t seem to get into the mood to rent it. Nothing wrong with Jason Clarke. He’s a quiet actor who acts well, but like his Kennedy character, is overshadowed by his flashier siblings.

    • It’s well worth a look one night, I think it may be Clarke’s best role yet. It wasn’t flashy or anything but a very solid drama.
      E

    • I think your right mate, although I found this a really nice focussed look on a very particular time and place. I knew very little of the story which probably helped it be a win for me.
      E

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