Now comes the film drama, Chappaquiddick .
From the Variety review Owen Gleiberman, Chief Film Critic:
The movie is avidly told and often suspenseful, but it’s really a fascinating study of how corruption in America works. It sears you with its relevance and, for that reason, has every chance to find an audience...-RW
Ted, who’s been guzzling whiskey from a bottle, zooms away from a local cop (he doesn’t want to be caught drunk, or seen with a pretty blonde he may have designs on). He then turns his gaze toward Mary Jo — and that’s the moment he
drives off the bridge. It’s a short wooden structure, with no guard rails, and after fighting his way out of the water, he walks, in a daze, back to the cottage. He may be soused, but he’s already in damage-control mode.
At the cottage, when he sees Joe Gargan (Ed Helms), his cousin, friend, and lawyer, the first thing he says is, “We’ve got a problem,” followed by a quick, “I’m not going to be president.” He’s already thinking about himself, and no one but himself. He is thinking, in other words, like a Kennedy. Joe and their other comrade, the Massachusetts Attorney General Paul Markham (Jim Gaffigan), both tell Ted that he needs to report the crime, and he assures them that he will. But what he knows is that reporting the crime means he’ll be tested for alcohol consumption, so he has to wait. And wait.
The film says that what happened at Chappaquiddick was even worse than we think. Kopechne’s body was found in a position that implied that she was struggling to keep her head out of the water. And what the film suggests is that once the car turned upside down, she didn’t die; she was alive and then drowned, after a period of time, as the water seeped in. This makes Edward Kennedy’s decision not to report the crime a clear-cut act of criminal negligence — but in spirit (if not legally), it renders it something closer to an act of killing..
“Chappaquiddick” is a meticulously told chronicle, no more and no less, and at times there’s a slight detachment in watching it, because it’s too tough and smart to milk the situation by turning Edward Kennedy into a “tragic figure.” In certain ways, he may well have been, and there are moments when we see the sad grandeur with which this disaster hangs on his stooped shoulders, but the movie is fundamentally the portrait of a weasel: a man who, from the moment the accident happens, takes as his premise that he will not suffer the consequences, and then does what it takes to twist reality so that it conforms to that scenario.
That twisting consists, mostly, of calling his protectors. It starts with his father, Joseph P. Kennedy, who rasps out one word on the phone: “Alibi!” Joe is an 80-year-old stroke victim who can barely speak; he’s played, sitting in a wheelchair, by Bruce Dern, with a slack leer and a mouth twisted open, but with eyes that still burn with the merciless ferocity of power. Ted, with Joe’s help, is soon face to face with their high-end version of the Deep State: All the Kennedys’ Men, like the brainy speechwriter Ted Sorenson (Taylor Nichols) and the former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (a grimly magnetic Clancy Brown), who begin to make their moves.
A local physician is summoned, so that he can decree that Kennedy suffered a concussion (even though Ted is fine, and the doctor never even examines him).