Neither party has a monopoly in abandoning their moral principles in the support of a man/woman whose agenda they support. Not since 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi have I walked out of a movie so mad, so convinced that an injustice was done. This movie is that well made. Having said that, the Kennedy family has a right to suggest that certain “facts” are not true. On the other hand, the delays and obstructionism that are true certainly lend a hand to the movie maker in filling in the gaps. For example, we have no explanation how Ted got out of the car, when rescuers were unable to get in. Why have those at the party put up a wall of silence? The list goes on and on.
July 1969, on the same weekend of the moon landing, and just three weeks before the infamous Charles Manson murders, Ted Kennedy is thinking about a run for President in 1972. A group of married men invite six single women (known as “the boiler girls” for their work on Bobby’s campaign) to a party after a sailing race. Leaving her purse behind, Mary Jo Kopechne and Ted go off for a drive, even though Ted’s usual driver is at the party. Spotted parked by a policeman, Ted speeds off. Shortly thereafter, their car goes off a ramp and only Ted survives. Most of the film centers on what happens, or didn’t happen, next.
Jason Clarke (why do they attempt the bad accents?) portrays Ted Kennedy, some say almost sympathetically compared to Joe Kennedy. To the contrary, he actually comes off as a slimy, conniving snake in the grass. Jason is not likely to get any awards for this movie. Kate Mara is Mary Jo Kopechne, a difficult part because so little is known about her. As the focus is on Ted, that doesn’t change here. Joe Gargan, a cousin of Ted is played by very well by Ed Helms. He comes off as the Ted’s conscience, constantly urging Ted to do the right thing, which Ted ignores. The movie suggests his estrangement from the family arises from this incident. Various other political and family characters are in the movie including Joe Kennedy, Sr., Ted Sorensen, Robert McNamara, Joan Kennedy and Sargent Shriver, all trying to keep the Kennedy legacy going.
Aggravated vehicular homicide, driving under the influence, leaving the scene of an accident, and conspiracy to obstruct justice are just a few of the charges not fully investigated. The body was rushed out of state so an autopsy would not be performed. Six months later, a request for exhumation was denied, partly because Mary Jo’s family was still opposed. The inquest was rushed. Ted Kennedy was never interviewed by the police; although surrounded by lawyers, I doubt that it would have gone very far. In all fairness, the movie raises all kinds of questions even as it tries to answer them. If you believe the movie’s version, Ted Kennedy would be “the liar of the Senate,” not the “lion of the Senate.” Expectedly, we were sent to the hinterlands of the theater to see this flick. Unexpectedly, it was a full house. It certainly shows the interest in the topic nearly 50 years later. Whatever your political views on the Kennedy family, be prepared to grit your teeth. You will either be outraged at the “truth” or the “slander.” Either way, the director did a good job setting the table.