‘Chappaquiddick’ Reviews Paint An Unpretty Picture of Kennedys

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2017/09/18/chappaquiddick-reviews-paint-an-unpretty-picture-of-kennedys/

Reviews are trickling out of Toronto, where the Hollywood docudrama Chappaquiddick held its first screening, and word is that the film in unflinching in its retelling of the circumstances leading up to and after the drowning death of Mary Jo Kopechne in July 1969.

Specifically, prominent critics are claiming that Chappaquiddick may have driven yet another nail into the coffin of the Kennedy family legacy — and especially the liberal lion of the U.S. Senate — Massachusetts’s own Ted Kennedy.

“The film says that what happened at Chappaquiddick was even worse than we think,” writes Variety’s chief film critic, Owen Gleiberman. “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.”

Gleiberman adds that the film is “too tough and smart to milk the situation by turning Edward Kennedy into a ‘tragic figure’.”

Here is the money part of Gleiberman’s review:

“Forty-eight years later, let’s be clear on what the meaning of Chappaquiddick is. Ted Kennedy should, by all rights, have stood trial for involuntary manslaughter, which would likely have ended his political career. The fact that the Kennedy family — the original postwar dynasty of the one percent — possessed, and exerted, the influence to squash the case is the essence of what Chappaquiddick means. The Kennedys lived outside the law; the one instance in American history of an illegally stolen presidential election was the election of John F. Kennedy in 1960. He in all likelihood lost the race to Richard Nixon, but his father tried to steal the election for him by manipulating the vote tallies in (among other places) Illinois. That’s the meaning of Chappaquiddick. Too.”

Yet critic Sharon Waxman, writing for TheWrap.com, counters in her review that “for those who expect a hatchet job against the Kennedy clan in ‘Chappaquiddick,’ which premiered Sunday at the Toronto Film Festival, they’ll have to keep waiting.”

“Chappaquiddick may be an indelible stain on Ted Kennedy’s career, but it was not his entire life,” Waxman concludes.

Yet rather than focus on the film itself, Waxman oddly waxes poetic about the need for a current-day Kennedy figure to emerge:

“Indeed, the Kennedys’ moral failings are hardly what ails our democracy at this time. Many of us wish there was a Kennedy-esque figure to offer leadership in place of the moral chasm that faces the nation right now.”

Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter writes that a modern-day telling of the Chappaquiddick story “theoretically opens the door for a tell-all approach to a sorry episode that always carried lurid overtones of drunkenness, sexual impropriety, cover-up and family influence exercised from on high.

“But the film is surprisingly low-key in dealing in all of these areas, simply suggesting that, because the incident took place in Massachusetts, the family’s home state, royal power obviously played a role; the funniest line in the film comes when crafty old patriarch Joe Kennedy, virtually incapable of speaking at this point, is asked for his advice over the phone and manages to croak out, ‘Alibi!’”

The Guardian’s Jordan Hoffman, however, poses a question in his review concerning Ted Kennedy’s culpability:

“It’s never a question of whether Kennedy’s behavior was wrong, it’s:  how much are we supposed to hate him? Put bluntly, if you had immediate access to the most powerful network of political fixers at your disposal, just what would you do?”

It’s Glieberman’s review for Variety that’s of course garnering the most traction amongst conservatives.

Writes Steven Hayward, of PowerlineBlog.com:

“I hope Gleiberman has good life insurance, and checks his car’s ignition before he starts up every day from now on. Just to be safe, don’t park next to Oliver Stone.”

A general release date for Chappaquiddick has not yet been announced.