I think John Curran's masterful "Chappaquiddick" was shown once in Toronto for a handful of critics and distributors. Byron Allen was very smart to pick it up for his new Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures company–it's going to be a big hit. What he could never have predicted back in September that by now the movie would have a whole new layer of meaning: Mary Jo Kopechne, left to drown in the waters of Martha's Vineyard in July 1969, was the first #MeToo victim. Her death, suggested here as caused by the late Senator Edward Kennedy, is the paradigm for everything being discussed today.
Curran has made a couple of movies I really liked– "Tracks" with Mia Wasikowska and Adam Driver, and "We Don't Live Here Anymore" with Mark Ruffalo and Marisa Tomei. He's Australian and almost 60, so his sensibility is outsider and his interests would be the Kennedys and how power corrupts. The Australian part is lucky because he's brought Jason Clarke along as Ted Kennedy, and it's a powerful performance that should put him on early awards lists. Clarke was borbn to play Teddy as it turns out.
"Chappaquiddick" refers to a scandal that in hindsight is stunning that it didn't end Kennedy's political career– or put him in jail. Let's say you're a fan of Kennedy for everything but this episode. Still, on a boozy summer night — the same weekend that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon–a married but philandering Teddy drove his car off the Chappaquiddick bridge with Mary Jo Kopechne (astute performance by Kate Mara, she's excellent), a young secretary who'd worked for his late brother Bobby, at his side.
Were they screwing, or just driving around, drinking, having a grand time? No one knows. But the car went into the water and turned upside down. Teddy escaped and did not try to save Mary Jo. He return to the party house where he and friends had been whooping it up, found two of his sycophants (Ed Helms and Jim Gaffigan), brought them back to the scene of the accident. By then, Mary Jo had certainly died.