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CHAPPAQUIDDICK

SYNOPSIS:
Ted Kennedy's life and political career become derailed after he is involved in a fatal 1969 car accident that claims the life of a young campaign strategist, Mary Jo Kopechne.

Review by Louise Keller:
A fascinating insight into a torrid political scandal, John Curran's (Praise, Tracks) meticulously made drama, Chappaquiddick is rollercoaster ride involving truth and its manipulation. An intelligent and succinct screenplay by first time writers Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan sets the scene as it takes us into the privileged world of Ted Kennedy. We are allowed to understand the culture, the mindset and the background of the key players. It's about politics, power, sexual innuendo and lies. Curran has taken all the elements and woven them into a complex, textured tapestry in which the long shadow of family expectations drives the action.

The casting of Australian actor Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty, Everest) in the central role is perfect - not only does he physically resemble the youngest of the four Kennedy brothers, but nails his essence and delivers a convincing portrayal. Ironically, Clarke was born on July 17, 1969 - the day before the Chappaquiddick event.

There's a relaxed, jovial mood after the annual regatta at Martha's Vineyards on Friday July 18, 1969, the night the tragedy strikes. We watch in horror as Kennedy's 1967 black Oldsmobile drives into a pond from a small wooden bridge on Chappaquiddick Island in the dead of night. How does Kennedy escape from the submerged car? What transpires after the accident? And what exactly is the nature of the relationship between Kennedy and Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara, superb)? I like the way the film leaves some aspects of the story up to its audience for interpretation. Listen carefully to the first words Kennedy utters when recounting the events to his lawyer and attorney. They are telling.

Corruption oozes like pus from a wound. The truth is adjusted as required. It's a bit like resetting the time on a watch - all you need to do is move the hands. The long awaited landing on the moon (on July 20) becomes important for different reasons - as a distraction.

Chappaquiddick is all about relationships. Key is that between Kennedy and his lawyer and cousin Joe Gargan (Ed Helm, excellent). But it is his relationship with his domineering father Joseph who had White House ambitions for all his sons, that haunts. Bruce Dern gives a formidable performance as the wheelchair bound patriarch whose stroke may leave him unable to speak, but not from expressing his disapproval. The scenes between Clarke and Dern are some of the film's best.

I thoroughly enjoyed Chappaquiddick, rekindling our interest in this tumultuous chapter of the Kennedy 'Camelot' era. There's an intriguing glimpse into the Kennedy dynasty. Teddy Kennedy is walking in the shadows. The shadows of his 'charismatic' brother Jack and 'brilliant' brother Bobby. Would history remember him as the 'disappointing' one? Clearly the burden is acute. Production design is impeccable and the music score, with its ever-constant strings effectively whine their angst and uncertainty. Recommended.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

CHAPPAQUIDDICK (M)
(Sweden, US, 2017)

CAST: Jason Clarke, Kate Mara, Olivia Thereby, Ed Helms, Bruce Dern, Clancy Brown, Adria Blackman

PRODUCER: Mark Card, Chris Cowles, Chris Fenton, Campbell G. McInnes

DIRECTOR: John Curran

SCRIPT: Taylor Allen, Andrew Logan

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Maryse Alberti

EDITOR: Keith Fraase

MUSIC: Garth Stevenson

PRODUCTION DESIGN: John Goldsmith

RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Transmission

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 10, 2018







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