LONSBERRY: My Review Of Chappaquiddick

I was taken in by the ads.

Or, more correctly, invited in by the ads.

For Chappaquiddick, the movie about Teddy Kennedy. 

It’s not the sort of movie I’d be interested in. I don’t have a taste for seeing Kennedy either glorified or demonized. I remember Chappaquiddick – it happened on my tenth birthday – and I have read all there is to read about it over the years since. I’ve always seen it as a very sad story. An innocent woman died, and history received a dishonorable counterpoint to PT 109.

And I wouldn’t want to see a movie about that.

But the ads kept running. At the two radio stations where I work – WHAM and WSYR – a steady stream of ads for the movie. At first, I thought it was kind of a manipulation, a presumption that Rush Limbaugh listeners would want to watch a hit piece on Teddy Kennedy. I felt like they were trying to cash in on what they presumed was the animus of conservatives.

But the ads caught on. In part because of a tag line that warned the movie featured “historical smoking,” like that was some affront to common decency that good people needed to be warned about. The words – mandated by the people who rate the movies – were either politically correct idiocy or smart marketing, or both. But they were effective, and people talked about them.

And it occurred to me that the conservative talk-radio audience seldom gets invited to movies. Maybe to crank conspiracy movies about Hillary and space aliens, but not to real movies made by real movie people. 

This invitation was unique.

And I decided to accept it.

So Thursday night at 7 I paid the $11 and, like the four other people scattered around the theater, took a seat.

This is what I think about Chappaquiddick: It is a good movie, but bad history. 

This movie is accurate in the same way that William Shakespeare was a biographer of Julius Caesar. The writers picked the story out of history and turned it into some sort of Greek tragedy. Teddy and the events at Chappaquiddick are merely vehicles for the movie-making art. The protagonist is broken and torn, an aspiring sociopath. The other characters are each representative of some human virtue or vice, monotones arranged in a melancholy harmony.

Chappaquiddick is a Passion Play in which the other-universe Jesus never quite gets around to saying, “Not my will, but thine, be done.”

It’s also a reminder that the Kennedy mystique didn’t have much of a shelf life. The effort to save Teddy from himself was a Camelot spinoff that didn’t quite work, an operation run by the same people who brought you the Vietnam War. A group of people who were, by 1969, living off the echo of an era that had already been swept aside not once, but twice. 

It was Lyndon Johnson who truly advanced the Democrat cause, and he had been rejected. While Teddy and the best and brightest of the Kennedy crew were crammed into a Chappaquiddick rental, Richard Nixon was in the White House with an approval rating in the mid-60s. 

If you want to get insight into the events of that weekend, look elsewhere.

If you want to understand Teddy Kennedy, it’s better to look at Palm Beach in 1991, as opposed to Chappaquiddick in 1969.

Likewise, if you want to understand Joseph Kennedy Sr., you get closer by remembering he was a man who lost three sons in the service of our country than by pondering the fictional grotesquery you see portrayed in this movie.

But if you want to see a well-made and well-acted movie, and a pretty good re-creation of the look and feel of that era – historical smoking and all – this movie is for you. I was alive back then, and it looked like that. 

It’s too bad the movie doesn’t use the music of the time. “Crystal Blue Persuasion” and “In the Year 2525” were atop the charts and on the radio that weekend, along with a half dozen other songs – including “Sweet Caroline” – that have endured the test of time. To make a 60s movie without 60s music makes no sense.

I was glad I went to the movie.

I was more glad I was invited.

Unless the movie industry – financially and politically in bed with progressive Democrats – is angered by the questioning of a Democrat demigod, Chappaquiddick will probably be up for big awards. Usually, the movies that get awards isolate themselves on the islands of snobbery and superiority, especially as it regards conservatives. This one didn’t.

This one treated conservatives like customers.

This one reached out and advertised to the very people who most of the time think Hollywood is at war with them. 

A progressive director made a movie about Teddy Kennedy, and politely and respectfully asked conservatives to come watch it. 

That’s bridge building.

Hopefully it was also good for ticket sales.


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