Chappaquiddick Parent Guide
Even after watching this movie adaption, the true story of the Chappaquiddick Incident is still untold.
Parent Movie Review
Joseph P. Kennedy was a self-made millionaire by the age of thirty. Although he had ties to the American Democratic Party, and even served as an ambassador, much of his life’s ambition was to groom his four sons for political office. Both blessed and cursed in this endeavor, his first son Joseph Jr. gave his life for his country during WWII. The second, John F. became President, but was assassinated in 1963. Robert (Bobby), after serving as a U.S. Senator and the Attorney General, met a similar fate in 1968 while running for the presidency. And the last, Edward (Ted) became a representative for the state of Massachusetts in 1962 and was on track for a presidential bid in 1972 – until the fateful events of July 18, 1969.
While most of the world watches the Apollo 11 rocket heading for the moon in fulfillment the late Pres. J.F. Kennedy’s challenge, Senator Ted Kennedy (played by Jason Clarke) heads to Martha’s Vineyard for a sailing competition. Part of the festivities include a house party with a group of single women who have worked on previous Kennedy campaigns.
After an evening of smoking and drinking, the married Ted leaves the gathering in the company of one of those girls, Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara). Later that evening, the senator and the secretary accidentally drive off a bridge near the island town of Chappaquiddick. Ted somehow escapes the capsized car; Mary Jo does not. Yet instead of reporting the incident to the local authorities, the flustered politician flounders around, seeking, but not really taking, help from close friends, family and lawyers. Still, he does appear to realize that his career ambitions are drowning along with his vehicle and its twenty-eight-year-old passenger.
This dramatization of what has become known as the Chappaquiddick Incident, does a pretty good job of reminding a new generation of the circumstances surrounding the tragedy and the reasons why there is little evidence to be examined in the case. However, it doesn’t shine much light on the murky details or explain Kennedy’s inaction. And it never really attempts to address the nagging, unanswered questions. (Perhaps that is due to an absence of facts.)
Instead the script seems to be an exploration of Ted’s inner turmoil. It examines the effects of living in the shadow of his over-achieving family, and the expectations of his demanding father (Bruce Dern). It depicts the growing rift between Ted and his loyal cousin Joe Gargan (Ed Helms), which breaks into a fistfight at one point. And it delves into the way partisan support and top legal aid can help the privileged escape consequences.
The film contains a smattering of swearing and two uses of a sexual expletive, along with some brief disturbing depictions of the trapped woman and the later portrayal of her corpse. While this content may make it unsuitable for young viewers, they likely won’t be attracted to this slow moving, slice of history anyway.
As Ted navigates the choppy waters threatening his reputation, he is want to say, “I need to tell the truth—or my version of it anyway”. That one-sided, constructed perspective may also be what is wrong with the film. After its 101 minute runtime, I’m still no more satisfied with the conclusion of this affair than the justice system should have been all those years ago.Directed by John Curran. Starring Kate Mara, Jason Clarke, Bruce Dern, Ed Helms. Running time: 107 minutes. Theatrical release April 6, 2018. Updated April 12, 2018
Rating & Content Info
Why is Chappaquiddick rated PG-13? Chappaquiddick is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for thematic material, disturbing images, some strong language, and historical smoking
Violence: A driver, who has been drinking, skids his car across a road, and later off the side of a bridge, landing it upside-down in a pond. A woman is trapped inside a submerged car: she calls for help as the water rises. A body is recovered and we see a doctor and mortician do a brief medical examination while discussing possible causes of death. A corpse is seen in a body bag and in a coffin during a funeral. A couple of men wrestle angrily. Mental health is discussed. A character submerges his face in a bathtub. Legal personnel discuss possible indictments, such as manslaughter. A man slaps another’s face.
Sexual Content: Women and men are seen in swimwear. Men strip down to their underwear before diving into water to make a rescue attempt. People kiss each other in greeting, hug and hold hands. Immoral conduct is mentioned and denied.
Profanity: Frequent mild and moderate profanity is used, along with scatological slang and terms of deity. A sexual expletive is heard twice.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Cigarette smoking and drinking is seen frequently. Characters discuss drinking to excess and are seen passed out on the floor. Toasts are made. A man carries a bottle of alcohol into his car before going for a drive. Drunk driving is implied.
Page last updated April 12, 2018
More parents' guide for Chappaquiddick after the break...
Chappaquiddick Parents' Guide
Ted reflects that, "The Path you are on now isn't always the path that you would choose." What does he mean? Who does he feel is dictating the path he should pursue? How does he respond when he is asked, "What is stopping you from making your own choices?" In what ways does he blame others for his own circumstances? Is he the victim he thinks he is? Why or why not?
When it becomes apparent that Ted is in deep trouble, his staff asks, "What do we need to do to help the senator?" Why? Is it their job to protect him, even if his actions are deserving of consequences? What other people offer to shield him? What are their motives? Should people with rank and privilege be accountable to different laws than everyone else?
News About "Chappaquiddick"
This movie is based on a true story. Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy came under a lot of suspicion when he failed to report a car accident until 10 hours after the event.
On the evening of July 17, 1969, the Senator left a party on Chappaquiddick Island, and accidentally drove off a bridge and into a tidal pond. He survived, but his passenger did not not. 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne was trapped in the submerged car and drowned.
Speculation ran rampant over the married Kennedy's relationship with the single woman. His failure to report the accident sooner, along with many inconstancies with his story added fuel to scandal's fire. Infamously called the Chappaquiddick Incident, the unanswered questions from that night would haunt Ted Kennedy's political ambitions for the rest of his life -- but they didn't stop him from having a long career in public service.
The movie Chappaquiddick, starring Jason Clarke as Kennedy and Kate Mara as Kopechne, dramatizes the story and likely fills in some of the missing pieces with unproven theories.