Chappaquiddick is a historical drama about Ted Kennedy just barely finding his moral self.
Family history and living up or down to those legacies echo ruefully, regrettably and mournfully in this story about the death of Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara), a young idealistic woman, who died in a horrible car accident that Ted Kennedy (Jason Clarke) was mostly responsible for. It is set during the first moon landing— the end result of brother and President John Kennedy’s vision of what America can achieve- and one year after the assassinator of other brother Bobby. The death shrouds of family legacy, survivor’s guilt, disappointment and great dreams cut short clothes everything in the smell of coverup, cronyism and disillusionment.
Director John Curran (Tracks, The Painted Veil) and writers Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan pose their Ted Kennedy character midway between honesty and corruption. His idealistic younger cousin Joseph Gargan (Ed Helms) advises Ted to be honest and just weather the political storm while echoing family scion Joseph Kennedy wants to deploy his vast political apparatus to cover it up as he dresses down his last surviving son for his political and moral inadequacies. Ted comfortably uncomfortable in both worlds is left to find his path between doing the right thing and the Kennedy thing.
That drama between idealism and family legacy pushes Chappaquiddick into some uncomfortable corners that changes history. Ted Kennedy may have saved his political career by fessing up and doing the right thing but he would go down as the Kennedy that lost the family Presidential legacy. Chappaquiddick hints that decision haunted Ted Kennedy for the rest of his life.