The Shadow: a Review of “Chappaquiddick”
Directed by John Curran with a script by Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan, Chappaquiddick – which opened last Friday – tells a story most people over the age of 60 will recall. Whether or not it will appeal to younger generations I can’t say, although the studio has a hashtag for that: #thisreallyhappened.
To jog your memory: In the early morning hours of July 18, 1969, the junior U.S. senator from Massachusetts, Edward M. Kennedy (hereinafter, Teddy), left a party in the company of a former aide to his late brother Bobby, and – almost certainly under the influence of alcohol – drove his car off a wooden bridge and into a tidal pond. Teddy managed to escape from the sunken automobile; his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, did not. It’s unclear whether she drowned or suffocated inside the Oldsmobile Delmont 88, probably the latter (she may have survived for four hours).
What happened next is both unclear and yet damning. In the film, we see Teddy sitting on the bank of the pond in the immediate aftermath of the crash. Then we see him walking along the road that leads back to the beach-house party where six – now five – single women (the “Boiler Room Girls” of RFK’s ’68 presidential campaign) and six – counting Teddy – married men continue their rather sad revels. Teddy (brilliantly and flawlessly played – with minimal but effective makeup – by Aussie actor Jason Clarke) tells an aide to fetch his cousin, Joey Gargan (superbly played by Ed Helms). Then Teddy climbs into the backseat of a waiting car. He says: “I’m not going to be president.”
Together with a former U.S. Attorney, Paul F. Markham (Jim Gaffigan), the three return to the scene of the accident. Gargan and Markham strip down and dive into the dark water, fruitlessly attempting to save Mary Jo. Teddy then insists that they commandeer a rowboat to take him back to Edgartown on the mainland so he can return to his hotel. Gargan and Markham, both lawyers, urge him to call the police as soon as possible. Instead, Teddy calls his father, Kennedy patriarch Joe, who whispers one word of advice: “Alibi.” Teddy’s first contact with the police came nine hours later.