February 28, 2018

Movie Critic, on ‘Chappaquiddick’: Mary Jo Kopechne Was ‘First #MeToo Victim’

In his Tuesday review of Chappaquiddick, film critic Roger Friedman called Mary Jo Kopechne, who died in July 1969 as a passenger in a car driven by Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy which “went into the water and turned upside down,” the “First #MeToo victim of Kennedy Family Money, Power and Corruption.” He also speculated: “The Kennedys … may try to kill this film.”

NewsBusters posts on the developing movie expressed concern, based on years of media sympathy for Kennedy, that he’d get a pass:

  • In December 2015, then-producer Mark Ciardi said the film’s viewers would “see what [Kennedy] had to go through.”
  • A year later, lead actor Jason Clarke said“Ted had a rough night.”

But when the film debuted at the Toronto Film Festival in September, NB’s Bozell and Graham hailed two “minor miracle(s).” The first is the film’s clinical storytelling, and the second was a Variety film critic’s contention that how the Kennedy clan squashed the case is “the essence of what Chappaquiddick means.”

Friedman believes #MeToo gives the film additional momentum:

Mary Jo Kopechne as First #MeToo Victim of Kennedy Family Money, Power and Corruption

(Director John Curran) 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.

… (Jason) Clarke was borbn (sic) 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. … on a boozy summer night … a married but philandering Teddy drove his car off the Chappaquiddick bridge with Mary Jo Kopechne …

… 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.

… They never reported the accident. Instead, they created massive cover up that presaged Watergate. … Clarke portrays Teddy so ambiguously you almost can’t tell if he’s calculating, stupid, just a lost man child. The result is you can’t take your eyes off of him. …

… The Kennedys will not be happy. They may try to kill this film. (In 40 years no one has even tried to tell this story accurately.) … This isn’t a tabloid story. Curran is damn serious. If Mary Jo as #MeToo victim takes off, the movie will click.

Ed Driscoll at Instapundit has raised an important point which doesn’t detract from Friedman’s overall theme: “… the ghosts of Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy and Rosemary Kennedy might take exception with Roger Friedman’s headline.”

The trailer:

It remains to be seen whether movie critics will be as impressed with Chappaquiddick as they have been with The Post, another news-driven movie ”based on a true story” from decades ago.

Cross-posted, with possible revisions, at NewsBusters.org.

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