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(For Day 14 of NaPoWriMo, the prompt suggested a poem about the meaning of my first or last name, so I instead pivoted to delve into the meaning of a far more famous name than mine.)

Kennedy, Kennedy,
That’s what they see.
Not the J or the F or the R or the E.
Kennedy, Kennedy,
Destined for fame,
Merit an afterthought next to the name.

Kennedy, Kennedy,
What did you do?
One minute driving, the next in the stew.
Kennedy, Kennedy,
Eyes everywhere,
They see what they want to, one victim, one heir.

Kennedy, Kennedy,
Justice is blind,
But still that refrain’s at the back of its mind.
Kennedy, Kennedy,
Innocent guilt,
Only a brick in the empire built.

MPA rating:  PG-13

Political films always have the potential to be dicey and controversial, especially when they cover recent events, but with Hollywood’s fascination with scandal of any kind, it’s surprising and perhaps telling that a film about the Chappaquiddick incident wasn’t made until 48 years later and 8 years after Ted Kennedy’s death. For those unfamiliar with the affair, Chappaquiddick is an excellent cinematic history lesson, covering the days surrounding the accident where Senator Edward Kennedy (Jason Clarke) accidentally drove his car off a Massachusetts bridge and left young staffer Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara) to drown.

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There are far splashier scandals in American history, considering that this one mainly affected just two people, but the responses due to who the survivor was are both fascinating and disconcerting. Thanks to Kennedy’s family prestige, a team of damage control experts quickly swoop in to assist and cover for his obvious lapses in judgment.

Under such circumstances, it would be easy to paint Kennedy as a callous villain, but the script and Clarke’s subtle performance are not so one-sided, acknowledging the weight of his family expectations and the natural desperation of the situation without exonerating him either. That’s not to say that the film doesn’t have a clear opinion of what should have happened by the end, but I found it to have a welcome balance, perhaps tempered by nearly fifty years of retrospect. Despite solid performances from Ed Helms, Jim Gaffigan, and Clancy Brown, Chappaquiddick does threaten to be dull at times, but the true story has its own built-in interest when it comes to political machinations and tragedy, making itself still relevant today.

Best line: (Ted Kennedy) “Joey, you have flaws. We all do; you said so yourself. Moses had a temper. Peter betrayed Jesus. I have Chappaquiddick.”   (Joe Gargan) “Yeah. Moses had a temper. But he never left a girl at the bottom of the Red Sea.”

Rank:  List Runner-Up

© 2021 S.G. Liput
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