Full Review: CHAPPAQUIDDICK (USA 2017) ***

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Chappaquiddick Poster
Trailer

Depicting Ted Kennedy’s involvement in the fatal 1969 car accident that claims the life of a young campaign strategist, Mary Jo Kopechne.

Director:

John Curran

 

CHAPPAQUIDDICK is a story not many non-Americans are familiar with.  If this is not a story that needs be told, and if it is not an interesting one, it is one that questions the right thing that human beings should do.  The story has also been given a TV movie treatment a few years back, only now a full feature treatment.

A story that deals with a tragedy and with a character that is a coward relying on others to cover up his bad deeds is hardly material Hollywood would be interested in.  But the story is told with a twist, where the main character finally redeems himself and proves to others that he is a decent human being.  This character is Senator Ted Kennedy.

The film set in 1964, is also a meticulously crafted period piece with vintage vehicles.  The accident of the car going over the bridge into the water (a repeatedly visited scene) is well executed.

Presidents of the United States have always lied when confronted with catastrophe, Nixon and Clinton being the best examples.  This film questions the integrity of Ted Kennedy, which is correctly chosen to be the subject of the film.  This suspenseful historical drama examines the infamous 1969 incident when Senator Ted Kennedy (Jason Clarke) accidentally drove off a bridge, resulting in the death of campaign worker Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara).  This become known as the Chappaquiddick Incident.  Kopechne was trapped in a car that Senator Ted Kennedy drove, following a night of festivities.  Kennedy patriarch Joe (Bruce Dern), however, always considered his youngest son a ne’er-do-well — and he never let Ted forget it.  The party on Chappaquiddick reunited the “Boiler Room Girls” who had served on Robert Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign, among them Mary Jo (Kate Mara). Ted whisks Mary Jo away for a reckless moonlight drive that ends in tragedy.  But the more profound malfeasance begins after the drowning — itself dramatized here in harrowing detail — when a battalion of spin doctors gets to work on covering up the incident, using the Apollo 11 moon landing as a distraction.

The acting honours go to veteran actor Bruce Dern as the patriarch of the Kennedy family.  Joe is wheelchair ridden and unable to speak due to a stroke.  His mannerisms and utterings bring a different perspective to the story.  Jason Clarke is also marvellous is the role of Ted Kennedy, evoking our anger in the beginning and later earning the audience’s sympathy even forgiving him.

The film clearly stays clear any material dealing with the possible affair between Kennedy and Mary Jo.  The film also avoids any issue with Kennedy’s wife, she only said to be not feeling well during the events.  Near the end of the film, however, director Curran allows multiple opinions to be voiced through staged interviewees on camera.  One lady accurately says, that not all the facts are revealed so the public never knows the whole story.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qG-c8DtOm9g

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TIFF 2017 Movie Review: CHAPPAQUIDDICK (USA 2017) ***

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2017. Go to TIFF 2017 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

Chappaquiddick Poster
Ted Kennedy’s life and political career become derailed in the aftermath of a fatal car accident in 1969 that claims the life of a young campaign strategist, Mary Jo Kopechne.

Director:

John Curran

Stars:

Kate MaraEd HelmsJason Clarke

CHAPPAQUIDDICK is a story not many non-Americans are familiar with. If this is not a story that needs be told, and if it is not an interesting one, it is one that questions the right thing that human being should do. Presidents of the United States have always lied when confronted with catastrophe, Nixon and Clinton being the best examples. This film questions the integrity of Ted Kennedy, which is correctly chosen to be the subject oft the film rather than the incidents that occur.

This suspenseful historical drama examines the infamous 1969 incident when Senator Ted Kennedy (Jason Clarke) accidentally drove off a bridge, resulting in the death of campaign worker Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara).

This become known as the Chappaquiddick Incident. Kopechne was trapped in a car that Senator Ted Kennedy drove off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts, following a night of festivities. Kennedy patriarch Joe (Bruce Dern), however, always considered his youngest son a ne’er-do-well — and he never let Ted forget it.

The party on Chappaquiddick reunited the “Boiler Room Girls” who had served on Robert Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign, among them Mary Jo (Kate Mara). Ted whisks Mary Jo away for a reckless moonlight drive that ends in tragedy.

But the more profound malfeasance begins after the drowning — itself dramatized here in harrowing detail — when a battalion of spin doctors gets to work on covering up the incident, using the Apollo 11 moon landing as a distraction.

 

CHAPPAQUIDDICK

Film Review: MEGAN LEAVEY (USA 2017) ***

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megan_leavey.jpgBased on the true life story of a young Marine corporal whose unique discipline and bond with her military combat dog saved many lives during their deployment in Iraq.

Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Writers: Pamela Gray, Annie Mumolo
Stars: Kate Mara, Ramon Rodriguez, Tom Felton

Review by Gilbert Seah
 

 MEGAN LEAVEY is a film about a girl and her dog. Based on a true story written by Pamela Gray with the help of Annie Mumolo (BRIDESMAIDS), Tim Lovestedt, and Jordan Roberts, the story’s setting often shifts to an Afghanistan combat war zone where female Marine Megan Leavey and a combat dog named Rex have the task of exposing explosives that would lead to the saving of many lives. The film stresses the unique bond between man (or in this case woman) and man’s best friend.

The many times told similar tale of man’s best friend comes complete with owner and dog running together from a distance re-united to scenes where the canine saves the life of its owner or in this case, dog handler. The title of the film MEGAN LEAVEY, the name of the combatant, implies that the owner is given more importance that the canine. In fact, the dog does not appear till about 30 minutes through the film.

The film works on many accounts. The most important fact is the script and director Cowperthwaite’s effort in connecting the audience with the main character, Leavey. A well-written voiceover informs the audience at the film’s start of Leavey’s problem of a lack of motivation in her home town. When she is fired because she is unable to connect with other people, she joins the marines. The film takes time to show her relationship with an unsympathetic mother who fails to understand. By including scenes of Leavey suffering through boot camp, the audience sees that Leavey has accepted the punishment unfairly dished out to her.

The film gets a bit too sappy at parts. The cliche of the dog teaching Leavey human lessons is carried out a bit too far. The dog and Leavey’s separation and reunion are milked for sentimentality.

For the few battle scenes that are present, Peter McNulty’s clever editing captures the suspense and terror of the soldiers securing a few buildings that are littered with hidden explosives and unseen gunmen. Leavey and the dog, called Sergeant Rex are deployed twice in Iraq, first in Fallujy in 2005 and again in Ramadi in 2206. During the latter, both were injured by an improvised explosive device.

While Leavey was awarded the Purple Heart and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with a “V” device denoting heroism in combat with retirement, Rex was pulled back into service with another handle till Rex suffered from facial palsy, which ended his bomb-sniffing duties. This fact was surprisingly omitted in the film.

The film contains one over-preachy part when Megan’s father tells her to keep on trying and never give up despite constant failure, which is supposed to spur her to overturn a decision from preventing her adopting Rex.
The film omits the last few retirement years of Rex with Leavey though clips of the real Rex are shown during the closing credits emphasizing that the film is based on true events. Bring lots of Kleenex to this one.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGGcFbW__XI

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