FILM UNFILTERED - No new revelations in ‘Chappaquiddick’

FILM UNFILTERED - No new revelations in ‘Chappaquiddick’


There are a few new flicks that came out last week, and if you’re stuck in the lobby deciding on what to see, I may just refer you back to one of the movies I recommended in the last few weeks.

There aren’t any wildly spectacular new movies. There’s “A Quiet Place” which is a mildly innovative horror film, “Isle of Dogs” an art house sort of film that is only going to appeal to a limited audience, “Blockers” which is a comedy about parents attempting to stop the escapades of their daughters on prom night, and “Chappaquiddick” which is what I ended up seeing. If you can detect the lackadaisical attitude in that preceding sentence, then you’ll understand how flat and dull the choices were.

“Chappaquiddick” – unless you skipped history class and have no knowledge of the Kennedy family during the late ’60s – details what led up to and the aftermath of youngest brother Ted Kennedy’s car accident on the island of Martha’s Vineyard in the summer of 1969.

Kennedy is portrayed by Jason Clarke, who you’ve probably seen in a half dozen films, and he’s a really good actor. He is excellent here, but like every other actor before him, struggles with that notorious Boston accent. No worries though, that’s not the most distracting part of the film. Kate Mara (“House of Cards,” “Megan Leavey”) portrays Mary Jo Kopechne, the political strategist and up-and-comer who is the sole passenger in Ted’s car that fateful night. There’s something about Mara that leaves me unfazed. The same way that Dwayne Johnson is the same character in all his movies, Mara is similar. Her portrayals seem far too often like the last role she played.

Bruce Dern is along for the ride as patriarch Joe Kennedy. Dern is always worthwhile and brings some texture if not gruff to the films he is in, and here he plays a recognizable and serviceable Joe Kennedy. But it just isn’t enough to make this film compelling or interesting. There’s nothing revelatory going on here, there’s no new insight or skeletons unburied to alter the narrative. This is a pretty straightforward rehashing of an event this has been covered to death, especially 50 years ago. If you have the History Channel on your cable package, you have no doubt seen at least two versions of this story already.

If anything, this film simply reinforces how powerful people like the Kennedys were. If an average citizen did the same thing Ted did, they would’ve been locked up. This exemplifies how power, prestige and connections can make all the difference. Kennedy would go on to be one of the longest-serving United States senators representing Massachusetts. Even still, the event hung over Ted for years and I can still recall my own grandmother mocking him.

This is the seventh film directed by John Curran, and quite possibly his most commercially visible or recognized since his previous six films all appear to be equally flat, dull and sleepy as this was. It’s going to be a tough few weeks at the multiplex; pick wisely.

Rated PG13.

Jason Clarke takes on the role of Ted Kennedy in “Chappaquiddick,” which details what led up to and the aftermath of Kennedy’s car accident on the island of Martha’s Vineyard in the summer of 1969.