The Closet Conservative


You’ve got to tip your cap to Hollywood…. To make a movie that is NOT a tribute to Ted Kennedy…. To make a movie that does not show Ted Kennedy bashing President Bush, or demonizing Republicans… This movie shows Ted Kennedy at the most vulnerable point in his life, after driving a car into a pond, and inadvertently killing the passenger, and THEN, juggling his options of telling the entire truth, or futzing the facts, and salvaging his political career.

Except for Kennedy devotees, this movie comes off as a seemingly fair portrayal of the incidents around the 1969 accident. Anyone over the age of 55 knows the story, and most under have heard of it, and know the general facts. In “fact”, unless there is still some very unknown, very hidden, very devious hidden lies, most of the facts that matter have either been told, or certainly insinuated. (Did he have an affair with Mary Joe Kopechne? In the grand scheme of her death, it really doesn’t matter… Was he drinking? Most likely, but that does not excuse what happened, it only makes it more of a legal issue… Did his father try to manipulate him, to cover it up? Surely, but, it was still Ted Kennedy’s call as to WHAT to say to the press, and WHEN.

Since the entire premise, and end result are known to most viewers, drama is low key, and there are no surprise twists or turns. The movie plays out like an above average Made-for-TV Movie. What it does best is how it explores more about what and when his two closet advisors that night knew, did, and suggested to Kennedy what he should do….

As the facts are portrayed in the movie, Kennedy (played by Australian actor, Jason Clarke) comes out of the water after the car goes off the bridge. He makes an attempt to save the life of Mary Joe Kopechne. (Played by Kate Mara)

When unable to see her or pull her out, he stumbles back to the house where his advisors/friends/cousin are finishing off the evening of a party celebration. (The party certainly implies they were drinking and that Kennedy very likely was driving intoxicated) Ed Helms and Jim Gaffigan, two comedians, take on the rolls of Kennedy’s advisors and friends, Paul Markham and Joe Gargan (who was also a first cousin to Kennedy). Both men go back to the scene of the accident, dive in and look for Mary Joe. They are unable to find her and insist that Ted go straight to the law authorities and report the accident. History shows, he does not, and that’s what sets the second half of the movie in motion. One of the most critical revelations is that during the time Kennedy did NOT report the accident, shows that Kopechne may very well been still alive, and could have been saved even many hours later in the evening, had the accident been reported, and rescue teams sent out.

The movie then shows the days that follow, and it’s played out very slowly, yet the interaction between central characters in the political world, and personal world of Kennedy, all do their best to advise him on what to do…. One of my favorite lines of the movie comes toward the end, when Kenney is about to give a speech to the nation, just days after the accident…

…..Kennedy, trying to convince his cousin Joe that a massaged speech could work better than his resignation, says, “This may give me a chance at a new beginning.”

“This isn’t about opportunity, it’s about integrity,” Joe says.