CHAPPAQUIDDICK — Review by Susan Granger

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First used in 1954, the term “affluenza” refers to an inability to understand the consequences of one’s actions because of financial privilege. That, plus the corrosive arrogance of being a Kennedy in Massachusetts, explains why Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s hopes of ever becoming President of the United States sank on the night of July 18, 1969. Continue reading…

Since most moviegoers under age of 40 are probably unfamiliar with the sordid story, on that night – just as Apollo 11 was heading towards the moon – Ted Kennedy recklessly drove his Oldsmobile off a small, wooden bridge on Chappaquiddick. He managed to escape but left helpless, 28 year-old Mary Jo Kopechne to slowly suffocate/drown in the submerged car.

Basing their pulpy, procedural melodrama strictly on testimony during the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court inquest, first-time screenwriters Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan establish the time, place and characters but never ignite the emotionality of the situation – and John Curran’s methodical, heavy-handed direction details Kennedy’s irresponsible, incredibly selfish passivity during and after the calamity.

Questions like – How much had Kennedy been drinking that night? Was he having an affair with Mary Jo? And why did he wait 8-10 hours before reporting the accident? – are never addressed, although Kennedy and his cousin Joe Gargan, known as his “fixer,” admitted that without Bobby Kennedy’s young, unmarried “boiler room” girls, there would have been no weekend beach party on Martha’s Vineyard.

The physical resemblance between actor Jason Clarke and Kennedy is striking, while Kate Mara is convincing as demure Mary Jo, as is Ed Helms as Gargan. And Bruce Dern is ferocious as the stroke-stricken, yet still-cunning patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy, whose only advice to his youngest son is one word: “Alibi.”

Perhaps speechwriter Ted Sorenson (Taylor Nichols) puts it best, noting, “History has the final word on these things.”

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Chappaquiddick” is an infuriating 5, revealing how ‘justice’ is very different for the rich and powerful.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.