Haiku Review: Chappaquiddick

Every theatrical release that we catch will have a “Haiku Review” and will be given a rating. Occasionally, additional thoughts will be provided.


HAIKU REVIEW 

A tight, focused script;
With commendable restraint.
Jason Clarke shines here.


RATING:
Watch in Theater Immediately
Pickup at Redbox Upon Release
**Stream on Netflix/Watch on Cable**
Don’t Waste Your Time


ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

I don’t want the rating to make it seem like I didn’t enjoy this film, because that’s certainly not true. It is, in fact, quite a rock solid piece of filmmaking on every level. The script, the acting (including a great Ed Helms, proving once again that comedic actors can shine in dramatic roles), the direction, the editing, the score…everything delivers, but nothing is spectacular. I really liked that the writing and direction avoided the tabloid potential of this story and told the toned-down version; more of what we know to be true and less of the speculation and scandal that today’s crowds thrive on. Unfortunately, this lack of cheap thrills will hurt its box office performance, even while it has (so far) raked in positive critical response. Clarke does a very admirable job (especially as an Aussie trying to master that trademark New England accent) of portraying a flawed man who committed a terrible act of cowardice in the name of self-preservation. Yet, due to the pressure of being born with the last name of Kennedy, he comes off as sympathetic, as well. It doesn’t appear to be the life he wants to live, but he was just trying to make due when that fateful night in 1969 arrived. Not only was this a particularly dark chapter in the storied history of the Kennedy family, but it was one where it was hard to sympathize with the person at the center of the incident. Except that’s what the voters of Massachusetts did. Sure, the fact that Mary Jo Kopechne’s death coincided with the first walk on the moon helped push this issue out of the public eye a bit, but locally, it was still a big story. And yet, through it all, Ted Kennedy remained a beloved figure in American politics, as his nearly-royal status helped him avoid a system that would have put any one of the rest of us in prison for manslaughter (at the least). It’s a sharply relevant issue even 40 years later, as we see the effects of political tribalism shape the current landscape every day. This is, after all, the era of shouting “FAKE NEWS!” at anyone who disagrees with you, regardless of fact. Truth (and in this case, human life) can suffer the worst of collateral damage, and that’s just as true now as it was back then.

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