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Chappaquiddick (2017)

Directed by John Curran

Written by Taylor Allen, Andrew Logan

Starring: Jason Clarke, Kate Mara, Clancy Brown, Ed Helms, Bruce Dern

The story of Senator Ted Kennedy’s (Clarke) involvement in the 1969 accident that claimed the life of a campaign strategist (Mara).

This movie is based on the crash that claimed the life of Mary Jo Kopechne. The screenplay was written by Taylor Allen (Do Over) and Andrew Logan (Hellion). The film was directed by John Curran (The Painted Veil). Jason Clarke (Mudbound) stars alongside Kate Mara (The Martian), Clancy Brown (Thor: Ragnarok), Ed Helms (The Hangover), and Bruce Dern (The Hateful Eight).

The true story behind this film is a fascinating one. The events surrounding the accident had the potential to end the political career of Ted Kennedy. Unfortunately the script did little to capture that aspect of the film. The story revisits the night of the accident and a short period of time immediately afterwards. Instead of building the drama and tension, the movie meanders through the events almost aimlessly. The dialogue is a mixed bag of solid moments and failure. There are some scenes where the dialogue is unintentionally humorous. I was hoping for a solid political thriller built around one of the bigger scandals of the era. What I got was a weak story that lacks any twists or payoff.

The actors were doomed from the beginning with this one. The movie is (possibly intentionally) vague and the characters are shallow and mostly uninteresting. Jason Clarke plays the central role with a performance that lacks energy. His best moments come when he shares the screen with Ed Helms. Helms might have the best performance in this movie. His work carries emotion and provides some of the only drama in the film. Clancy Brown and Kate Mara are okay, but there wasn’t much for them to work with. Sadly, Bruce Dern was handed an awkward role that he wasn’t able to do anything good with. It’s a shame to see good actors fall victim to such a weak story.

The visuals in this one are fine. There isn’t anything great to talk about when it comes to how this one looks. It should be mentioned that Jason Clarke spends more time staring into the distance than any actor should. The editing also leaves this one with a slow pace that makes the weak story almost unbearable. It might be best to file this one under “movies that could have been good”. With an interesting premise, it seems like the filmmakers could’ve done something solid. If you’re interested in the story you might be disappointed with how this one glosses over the facts. I would be unlikely to suggest this one to anybody. I give this one 1 out of 5 stars.

Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 106 Minutes

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