Chappaquiddick: The Tragic Accident that Destroyed Ted Kennedy’s Presidential Ambitions

Chappaquiddick

Directed by John Curran (2018)

Film Review

The first (presumably of many) docudramas about the tragic accident at Chappaquiddick that destroyed the late Ted Kennedy’s presidential ambitions.

In it, Kennedy is portrayed as an extremely insecure and entitled rich brat who lives in terror of his tyrannical father Joe Kennedy. What comes across best in this production is that the persona the world knew as Ted Kennedy was one created for us by a network of extremely shrewd (and cynical) political advisors.

Thanks to their expert “management” of the episode, Kennedy got off with a two month suspended sentence (and one year probation) for leaving the scene of an accident, despite the fact he was driving while intoxicated and his passenger Mary Jo Kopechne could possibly have been rescued had he made immediate contact with the police.*

Prior to watching the film, I was unaware of the extreme pressure on Ted to run for president after his brother Bobby was killed in June 1968. I was also unaware he was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1980.

After watching numerous documentaries about the event, the version of Chappaquiddick that makes most sense to me is that Kennedy’s car flipped over when he accidentally drove off Dike Bridge into Poucha pond. He escaped from the car but not his passenger Kopechne. According to his campaign staff, he had been drinking at a “cookout” prior to getting in the car. In my view, his high blood alcohol levels were the most likely reason he postponed notifying the police until the following morning.


*I agree with legal experts who believe he was guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

Anyone who belongs to a public library can view the film free on Kanopy. Type “Kanopy” and the name of your library into your search engine.

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