Directed by: John Curran
Starring: Jason Clarke, Ed Helms, Kate Mara, Jim Gaffigan, Bruce Dern, Clancy Brown
Based on documented accounts and interviews with people present at the time, the film focuses on the tragic death of Mary Jo Kopechne, a political campaign strategist and close friend of Senator Ted Kennedy, his involvement and the subsequent cover-up.
The film is set over the weekend that Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969, on the small island of Chappaquiddick, where Ted and his close friends and supporters had gathered for a party. Ted and Mary Jo, both a little drunk, leave the party so Ted can try and convince her to lead his next presidential campaign. After almost running into a local police car, However, tragedy ensued and the car clips the side of a bridge at speed and flips into the water below.
Somehow Ted manages to free himself but Mary Jo doesn't. Ted stumbles back to the party and speaks with Joe Gargan, the Kennedy's lawyer and fixer, and also Paul Markham, the Chief Justice for Massachusetts. According to the film, both men compelled Ted to come clean and report the accident immediately. The film makes it clear that, if he had done so, there is a chance that Mary Jo might have survived.Ted might have followed through on his promise to report the accident if it weren't for his immediate instinct to call his father, Joe Kennedy, for advice first. Even though very sick his mind is still sharp and advises Ted to get an alibi.
This is a very well put-together drama, with a great cast. Jason Clarke is both sympathetic and risible as Ted Kennedy. He keeps coming close to doing the right thing but then veers off at a tangent to save his own skin and career. The best thing he does in the whole mess is exonerate Mary Jo and the other secretaries (the press were starting to speculate salacious details about the party) - but again, this is as much to save his own reputation as theirs. Ed Helms (the Hangover movies) is very good as the put upon Joe Gargan. There must be a point when he asks himself whether by doing such a good job of fixing bad situations, he's actually just enabling the Kennedy's questionable behaviour!
Bruce Dern is almost unrecognizable as Joe Kennedy, the patriarch whose iron will and dominance can still be felt, even though his face is partially paralized and he's confined to a wheelchair. Rounding out the cast is the awesome Clancy Brown, whose deep voice gives weight and authority to his Robert Macnamara, the lead lawyer making sure they keep ahead of any scandal.
The film ends with a retelling of Ted Kennedy's official televised statement, which is something the film most definitely doesn't believe. The version of events portrayed in the film certainly make more sense that the official version and given the Kennedy family's overall reputation its pretty easy to believe that's the way it happened.