The new film Chappaquiddick depicts a searing scandal that changed the course of political history. As the only surviving brother in a storied dynasty, 37-year-old Senator Ted Kennedy looked like a sure bet for the Presidency in the Summer of 1969. But after leaving a boozy party with a 28-year-old female passenger, he drove his car off a bridge.
Inexplicably—and unforgivably—he waited more than 9 hours before notifying local authorities who might have rescued the trapped young woman. The film highlights backstage manipulations, involving some of the nation’s most powerful figures, that rushed the victim’s burial without autopsy and treated Ted’s political survival as their all-important goal.
Australian actor Jason Clarke portrays Kennedy as more pathetic than horrific in a credible and chilling performance. For those disgusted by today’s tawdry politics and politicians, Chappaquiddick provides a powerful reminder that corruption and arrogance have long afflicted American public life.