Before I can even dive into my review, I need to set the stage for my movie going experience. We are staying at the Palms, where they have the Brenden Theatres. I went to see Chappaquiddick for an mid-evening showing on a Monday night. My first experience with Brenden Theatres, the previous day, was great. This experience was the polar opposite.
On Mondays, Brenden Theatres offers five dollar tickets for all showings. Of course, from a financial stand-point, this is awesome; a great deal. From a movie going stand-point, it brings large crowds and chaos.
Chappaquiddick is not a blockbuster type of film. It's more of an artsy drama. I entered the theater fifteen minutes early and the auditorium was about half full, mostly single people and couples, who were reading on Kindles or quietly talking. It seemed good, until mid-way through the previews, when the crowds started pouring in.
Admittedly, I get mildly irritated when people arrive during the previews. I love trailers and consider it part of my movie going experience. However, I realize that this is still in the allowable zone for people getting settled. I get really frustrated when people are still finding their seats after the film has started. For the first ten minutes of Chappaquiddick, people continued to arrive.
They continued to arrive, not attempting to enter the auditorium quietly. They came in complaining that their first, second, and third choices in films (mainstream blockbusters) were sold out. Still deciding to go to a movie, they went to what was available. Chappaquiddick was not the type of film that they would have picked on their own, so the loud complaints persisted throughout the showing. So did the use of cell phones; bright beams of distracting light were a constant issue. Also, so was the consumption of full-on meals, filling the theater with the aroma of Big Macs and orange-flavored chicken, that had been smuggled in from the nearby food court.
In short, I've never seen a film with such a blatantly disrespectful and rude audience. So take this review of Chappaquiddick with the knowledge that I was extremely distracted and irritable. Also, be forewarned if you should desire to take advantage of the five-dollar movie night. Personally, as a movie lover, it's not worth the savings.
PLOT- Based on the true story of senator Ted Kennedy's (Jason Clarke) car accident, that killed a young campaign strategist.
LIKE- I had heard of the 1969 Chappaquiddick incident, but I didn't recall much about it, making the film fresh and unexpected. The movie details Kennedy's involvement in a car accident on Chappaquiddick island in Massachusetts, where he drove drunk and flipped his car into the ocean, killing the passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara). Kennedy doesn't know what to do. He is the last surviving Kennedy son and he is being primed to run for the presidency. He feels immense pressure and is given different advice from different people. Should he lie or tell the truth? Or maybe spin the story to fit a narrative that will still give him a chance at the White House?
It's clear that despite his actions, Kennedy does feel guilty and terrible for having killed Kopechne. He was drunk driving and although it was an accident, he does bear the responsibility. However, watching Kennedy react to the accident was not nearly as fascinating and horrific as watching the reaction of those around him. People who believe in the Kennedy name and the importance of having a Kennedy in the white house, are willing to protect the senator in the name of the greater political good.
That is a really scary thought and it makes Chappaquiddick timely with the current state of our politics, with voters willing to turn a blind eye to moral transgressions in efforts to support their candidate. Scary stuff. I don't know enough about the real story to know how much of this film was factual, but taking it simply as a story, it resonates.
I liked seeing Ed Helms in a non-comedic role, playing Joseph Gargan, Kennedy's cousin and close confidant. Gargan is one of the few in the inner circle who is a voice of reason and who seems to be looking out for Kennedy's moral character, rather than his political ambitions. Bruce Dern is a force as Joseph Kennedy, a father who sees the last hope for his legacy in his only surviving son. He's quite chilling.
DISLIKE- The overall story is compelling and it's filled with complex moral issues and strong characters, however, the dialogue is poorly written. Early in the film, there is a lot of info dumping and exposition. I think the writers felt the need to catch the audience up on the Kennedy family dynamics, but it's told in unnatural and awkward dialogue. It was so odd, that I had trouble engaging in the story. It did improve as soon as this information was out, about a quarter into the movie.
RECOMMEND- Yes, but as a rental. Chappaquiddick is definitely worth watching, especially if you're interested in history or politics. It reveals some dark truths about human nature that are uncomfortable to realize, but that are important to bring to the surface. It makes you think about how you'd react in a similar situation, especially when confronted with continuing to support someone that you idolized and believed in.