Chappaquiddick feels a bit like two distinct, competing-yet-complementary movies. The first is a character study of a tragically flawed individual, the son who can never live up to the expectations of his father or the example of his brothers yet masters the clan’s tools for success, achieving public acceptance and private disgrace. The other is a comedy of errors, a farce, a darkly comic examination of the end result of seemingly hereditary immorality festering in a corrupt bloodline; imagine The Godfather if Fredo were the only surviving Corleone son at the saga’s beginning.
Chappaquiddick unfolds over a few days in 1969 as the United States shoots for the moon and Ted Kennedy (Jason Clarke) hightails it up to Chappaquiddick, an island just off Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. He’s there with his pals Joe Garagan (Ed Helms) and Paul Markham (Jim Gaffigan) to take part in a regatta and spend some quality time with the Kennedy coterie of “boiler room girls,” the attractive secretaries and campaign workers who tended to flock to the Brahmins.
One such girl is Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara), who had worked for Teddy’s brother, Bobby. She was unfortunate enough to be in a car driven by Teddy when he, drunk as a skunk, drove off a bridge and into a shallow pond. He escaped somehow, meandering back to the cabin where Joe and Paul are still partying with the girls; she remained trapped in the car, sucking increasingly thin oxygen from a claustrophobic pocket of air.
Director John Curran skillfully captures the horror of Kopechne’s final hours, crosscutting between her increasingly raspy gasps and Ted’s drunken effort to compose himself and figure out how to handle the situation—one he knows will likely cost him a shot at the presidency. As she wheezes, he soaks in a tub. As she gulps for air, he combs his hair. As her eyes roll back, he lays down in bed: police uncalled, accident unreported.
Read more at the Washington Free Beacon.