Tuesday, October 19

The Senator’s Review: An Easy Ride for Ted Kennedy | Film


“I I learned a great lesson from Chappaquiddick … don’t drive over narrow bridges when you’re mad as hell. “This gag from the 1970 BBC sketch show Not the Nine O’Clock News, with Griff Rhys Jones playing a shadowy Ted Kennedy , perfectly sums up his cynicism and self-pity. I find it more fitting than this indulgent film about Chappaquiddick, now appearing belatedly in the UK, starring Jason Clarke as Kennedy, scripted by first-time screenwriters Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan, and directed by John Curran.

While returning in the dark from a party on Massachusetts’ Chappaquiddick Island in July 1969, Kennedy’s car fell over a narrow bridge into the water. Kennedy swam, of course, but his passenger drowned: Mary Jo Kopechne, a woman who had worked as a researcher for her late brother Bobby. After failing to report the incident for eight hours and having toyed with the idea of ​​claiming that Mary Jo was driving, Kennedy finally admitted to leaving the scene of an accident, accepted a two-year suspended sentence, and gave a televised address claiming there was no condition. drinking and there was nothing wrong with Kopechne. America didn’t have much of an appetite to spoil the euphoria of the moon landing with a political scandal or spoil Kennedy’s tragic mystique. So the media and political classes suppressed their disgust and shame, allowing Kennedy to pursue his long but undistinguished senatorial career and a failed bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1980.

Clarke plausibly plays a defensive and upright Kennedy, his face flushed with fear and unrepentant resentment; Kate Mara is Kopechne, and Bruce Dern is the ghoulish figure of Joe Kennedy Sr., incapacitated by a stroke and seething with mute rage and contempt for his useless son. It’s a movie that, in important ways, is on Ted Kennedy’s side. It doesn’t show him drinking a lot, or drinking a lot at the party, and it doesn’t show him kissing or having sex with Kopechne, who doesn’t drink much either; just being very close and intimate about your fears and plans. And when the car begins to lose control, it is Mary Jo’s panicky gesture that obscures her view of the road.

But the movie shows how the family’s courtiers and spinning doctors came together: from great cheeses like former defense secretary Robert McNamara (Clancy Brown) to Ted’s cousin and beta preparer, Joe Gargan (Ed Helms). It persuasively suggests how Kennedy effectively retreated into a stunned state of denial, and that the Chappaquiddick catastrophe pushed him into something that seemed almost political seriousness. Namely, his traumatized horror of prosecution, a mannerism that carried over into the long anticlimax of his political career.

However, the senator is quite prim and prissy in his reluctance to acknowledge what is under his nose and what has been under the nose of American history for more than 50 years: the possibility that Ted Kennedy was very drunk and that had had or was eager to do so. having extramarital sex. And the movie could have done more to dramatize Kopechne’s life and show that she was more than just a footnote. Some interesting moments here, but the movie is a long hit.

The Senator is released on March 19 on Amazon Prime Video.


www.theguardian.com

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