Posted Thursday night, March 29, 2018.
Ted Kennedy (Jason Clarke) makes the wrong call in a scene from the upcoming film “Chappaquiddick”.
I was a kid when it happened. Back then, to me Ted was not a person in his own right but an avatar of his brothers and I expected that one day soon he would be President in their stead and save the country from Richard Nixon. And then…I knew. I knew him as himself and I knew he would never be President. Not only would he never be President but he didn’t deserve to be and I would never vote for him if he tried. Which he did. And I didn’t. And I was only half-joking when I wrote this post, Orrin and Ted in Hell. But I still admired him and wept when he died.
Can’t tell from the trailer if “Chappaquiddick” is going to be good, exploitive, boring, try to hard to have it both ways, or rise above the level of 1970s made for TV movies (which were often pretty good, by the way. You’ve seen “Duel”, right?) But Jason Clarke looks and acts scarily like Ted and Bruce Dern as the post-stroke Joe Kennedy will probably be brilliant And having Ed Helms and Jim Gaffigan in the cast is an interesting choice.
Speaking of scarily exact performances as a Kennedy…
We catch him only in glimpses. In the little time he’s there he’s often off to the side of the frame and already moving out of it. The few times we do see him clearly, it’s at a distance or through a lens. When we finally get an extended look, when we get to see him being not the President but himself, relaxed, having fun, he’s moving too fast and through a crowd, and then...he turns his back on us and that’s the last we see of him. His back, and her face as she holds onto him but afraid to hold on tight, wondering just who it is---just what it is---she’s holding on to.
It’s her movie, of course. It’s her grief being observed. The movie opens with that fact. The first image we’re given is of her in close up and although we recognize her immediately it’s not “Jackie” we focus on. It’s the harrowing sadness in this woman’s face. And the rage.
We see it all at once, the heartbreak, the loneliness---we can’t yet see if she’s all by herself but we feel it, how she’s isolated in her grief---we see---feel---the almost unendurable sense of not just loss but being lost. And we see that she’s angry but at what? At what happened? At the people---the strangers, the enemies---who did it or who wished it? At the people---the friends, the family---who don’t understand, who don’t feel it the way she feels it. At him? Why? What for? For the things he did to her and didn’t do for her and with her and what he left unsaid and unfinished.? For leaving her! As if it was his choice, as if he’d done it deliberately. At herself for…for what? At...Death. At all of it. But what good is that? What can she do with that? There. That’s the rest of the movie. What is she angry at? Who is she angry with? Where does she put her anger? What can she do with it? What can she do about it?
She’s a Kennedy, even if they never really accepted her. And Kennedys do things
That’s the opening of my review of “Jackie” starring a scarily exactly like her Natalie Portman. I hope you’ll follow the link to the review, Mrs Kennedy against Death.