By: Movie Snurb (Three Beers) –
Chances are saying the word Chappaquiddick to people around my age won’t garner a reaction, more of a question of, what did you say? To my parents, however, when I said Chappaquiddick they knew exactly what I was about to talk about; no introduction needed. On July 18, 1969 Ted Kennedy (Jason Clarke) was driving with Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara) at night on the island of Chappaquiddick at Martha’s Vineyard. His car drives off a small bridge and lands upside down in the water. Teddy gets out but Mary Jo doesn’t and he leaves the scene and doesn’t report the accident. The car is found in the morning and Mary Jo is dead. What follows are the two stories what happened, and the one that gets to the public. It’s a compelling story that was covered up by the moon landing and seemingly swept under the rug until now.
The acting by the entire cast is fantastic. Jason Clarke as Teddy is at the top of his game. Clarke has a way of not showing us what he is thinking, making the moments after the crash very tense and uncomfortable. Ed Helms and Jim Gaffigan are great in their respective supporting roles. It was great to see both of them play against their usual typecasting and give dramatic performances. Bruce Dern as Joe Kennedy might give the best performance in his minimal screen time. He plays a very convincing stroke victim. The film itself looks very polished. It’s very well made and makes you feel like you’re back in the 60’s and watching everything unfold in real time on the news. The score is a brilliant accomplice to the film and really conveys the dread, uncertainty, and ominous events surrounding this entire story.
For the subject matter this film is extremely slow. There were definitely two times I looked at my watch thinking the movie must be close to being over. The film has a short runtime of only 100 minutes. However, the movie does feel like it’s over two hours. For an exciting subject matter, the film really drags at points.
What didn’t help the pacing was how flat the movie was. For a such a suspenseful situation of Teddy maybe going to prison for manslaughter the stakes never seemed to be raised. Everything that could potentially raise the stakes; Teddy’s contradicting remarks, the giving of sedatives to treat a concussion, Teddy looking like an idiot in a neck brace… all of this which should raise the stakes never does. The entire film feels flat and never is suspenseful as it should be for a woman essentially being murdered.
Chappaquiddick is a fascinating story that not many people nowadays know about. Though it falls flat and moves at a slower pace, it still is a film worth seeing and learning about a moment in history that was conveniently overshadowed by the moon landing.
Chappaquiddick (2018) Drinking Game
Do a Shot: every time Teddy makes a dumb decision.
Do a Shot: for every flashback.
Take a Drink: for every thick Bahston accent.
Do a Shot: for every lie told.