First Hit: We all knew how despicable Ted Kennedy’s actions were, this film just puts pictures to it.
When the headlines came out that “Teddy” (Jason Clarke) had driven off a bridge with Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara) in the car and he survived while she drowned, the nation was shocked. As the story came out that Ted did not report this accident well into the next day, Ted became despicable and his and the Kennedy family's credibility sank to a new low.
This film shows the privileged way that Ted acted based on his being a Kennedy. Ted’s father Joseph (Bruce Dern) ran the Kennedy family with a iron crooked fist. His team of people who were on-call to protect the Kennedy name only exaggerated the privileged arrogant family ways.
Recalling the original news in the newspaper and seeing film footage of Teddy wearing a neck brace to gain sympathy was horrible then and even worse in this film. His manipulation of his Chief of Staff Joseph Gargan (Ed Helms) was painful to watch.
From a film point of view, using true accounts and the documents from the inquest, what is presented appears to be a fair reenactment of this tragic event.
Much is said about the horrific events of his older brother’s untimely deaths, two through assassination, and how Joe Kennedy expected the remaining son to carry on the family legacy. All Teddy wanted was his father’s love and respect for who he was.
Does Teddy make up for his lack of integrity around this and other events? That’s a judgment call and even though he was called “The Lion of the Senate,” this film does little to shed light on his career. It is a film about his doing nothing for Mary Jo as she slowly suffocated and drowned in an upside-down car.
Clarke was OK as Teddy. I didn’t think he showed enough of the “lion” within him but maybe the “lion” came later in life. He did a great job of being arrogant and childlike in his decision making. Mara was very good. Unfortunately, she’s not in the film a long time, but her Mary Jo stays with you during the remaining part of the film. Dern was excellent as a handicapped and old Joe Kennedy. His looks of disdain towards Teddy were perfect. Helms was excellent as Teddy’s right hand man who finally couldn’t take being Ted’s slave and foil and therefore left. Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan wrote a good script that seemed to capture the time and the feeling of crime. John Curran directed this film.
Overall: This film only validated my feelings about Teddy as a guy spending his life trying to make amends for being an unthoughtful arrogant man from an influential family.