20 July 2018 | Lejink
Left for dead by Ed
This retelling of the death of young Kennedy entourage "Boiler Room" secretary Mary Jo Kopechne and the involvement therein (or lack of same, arguably) of rising US senator and last surviving brother of the Kennedy family dynasty, Edward Kennedy, holds back little as it nails its accusatory colours to the mast.
I re-read as much background as I could on the tragic incident and it's difficult not to come to the same conclusion as the writer and director of this movie, that Kennedy firstly failed to attempt to rescue the stricken girl immediately after he escaped the sinking car, then got two of his slavishly obedient underlings to repeatedly dive into the river to try to save the girl, didn't report the matter immediately to the authorities where we learn that if he had, Mary Jo might even have made it out alive, before most shamefully of all, he played down and indeed lied about his role in the matter to go along with the abhorrent advice of the supporting Kennedy machine, a phalanx of important Democrats, including former Secretary of State Robert MacNamara, to cover up his part and so keep alive his future eligibility for the presidency.
As usual in dramatisations of real life happenings, some dramatic licence appears to be taken with events. For example was Ted Kennedy really so scared of his elderly, paralysed father, the family patriarch Joseph (played by an unrecognisable Bruce Dern) and so ashamed of himself as the underperforming last son of the family to justify acting in this deplorable spineless way? Then, was there anything sexual between Kennedy and Kopechne on the night - there are cryptic but inconclusive flashbacks shown hinting at something and Kennedy, whose wife hadn't made the trip, was a known womaniser. Did he really contemplate resigning the Senate right up to the last minute before caving into the surrounding peer pressure and instead turn his live TV broadcast into the contemptible self-serving speech it turned out to be, including his horrendous assertion that this was the infamous "Kennedy Curse" working on him - this just in Senator Kennedy, you didn't die, Miss Kopechne did - and in so saying, trying to bathe in the reflected glory of his two slain brothers? I also thought it was a major mistake to fail to mention the substantial payment that was made to the dead girl's parents, presumably to hush them up.
Only one person knows what happened on that fateful night and I concur with the film-makers' assertion here that Kennedy not only acted in a selfish, cowardly way at the scene - he even tried to weasel out of this by faking a medical report that he was concussed in the crash which affected his actions and then compounded the felony by "wearing" a neck brace for effect at the funeral.
This as I said is a brave film, justifiably, I believe, taking a side and having the courage of its convictions to stick to it. Jason Clarke is excellent as Kennedy while the rest of the lesser known cast give him credible support. The direction could have done with less of the voguish drone shots which seemed at odds with the realistic approach adopted elsewhere plus I found the soundtrack dull and again lacking affinity with the era portrayed.
I doubt this film will gain wide distribution but hope it does. It's an excellent drama, the tragedy of which is how realistically it depicted a tragically avoidable real life accident.