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April 6, 2018

REVIEW: ‘Chappaquiddick’ is a long-overdue dismantling of the Kennedy myth.

As portrayed by Jason Clarke, the young senator is a venal, self-pitying coward, thoughtless and remorseless, ambition his only care. He treats loyalists and groupies with equal contempt, and as the weekend begins, he toasts them all for “wanting to prove yourselves worthy of . . . the Kennedy name.”

It’s clear the filmmakers are in on this joke.

We next see Kennedy leaving the party with the young Mary Jo Kopechne, who had worked for Bobby Kennedy and was still mourning his death. The film depicts Ted as drinking and driving before his black Oldsmobile 88 flies off a small wooden bridge and into a pond, crash-landing upside down.

According to contemporaneous accounts, the tide was dead low, the water only 5 or 6 feet deep. Both of the passenger-side windows were blown out. Kennedy later testified that Mary Jo might have been hitting or kicking him in her frantic struggle to escape. He claimed to have gone back under for her six or seven times but there is no proof. He was seen at 2:25 a.m. in dry clothes by a hotel desk clerk.

The fact that it took nearly 50 years for a movie like this to get made tells you everything you need to know about the power of the Kennedys and the complicity of Hollywood.