Rated: PG-13 for thematic material, disturbing images, some strong language, and historical smoking. Reviewed by: Chris Release date: April 6, 2018 Released by: Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures
On July 18, 1969, Massachusetts Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy (played by Australian actor Jason Clarke) realized that he wasn't going to be President.
The re-telling of that horrible day begins with a party that Kennedy attends at a small cottage in Cape Cod. Some of his male friends and six twenty something year old young women referred to as the "Boiler Room Girls", meet for a night of talking, drinking and dancing. The women had worked on Bobby Kennedy's campaign and one of them was Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara). No one would ever know her name, except for the tragedy that occurred that evening.
The Senator and Kopechne talk about Bobby and both are melancholy over his death. They leave the party to take a late night drive in his Oldsmobile. Along the way they stop at the beach and Kennedy is shown drinking. The film hints at a past relationship between the two, but nothing more. The two get back in the car and he misses a sharp turn and crashes off a small bridge.
The car lands upside down in a pool of water that covers the vehicle. Kennedy escapes and leave Mary Jo fighting for her life. He takes a nearby rowboat and rows to the hotel he had been staying at and calls his father from a payphone. Patriarch Joe Kennedy, weakened by a stroke which leaves him in a wheelchair and with difficulty speaking, says to his youngest son after hearing the awful story, "alibi". Immediately afterwards, the Senator tries to come up with several different stories to clear himself.
He changes clothes in his hotel room and goes downstairs to ask the clerk what time it is, making it appear that he had never left the hotel that evening. Kennedy never notified the police until the next day that he had left a young women in his submerged car.
One of the most disturbing scenes has Kennedy in the hotel bathtub, thinking about the accident and putting his face under water to clear the image from his mind, while at the same time, Mary Jo is shown gasping for breath.
Ted tries out different lies that might remove him from culpability. First, he says that he can't remember the crash, he gets a doctor to say he's suffered a concussion, and he resorts to coming up with the idea that Mary Jo was the driver that evening. He even wears a fake neck brace to Mary Jo's funeral.
Joe calls in the political "fixers" - Ted Sorenson, Robert McNamara and others, to come up with plausible stories why the Senator would leave a young woman to drown. The scene has a bunch of men trying to save Ted's career without much compassion or humanity for the girl.
Directed by John Curran, the film shows that although all of the facts aren't fully known, the man acted inexcusably. Experts said that if the authorities had been notified immediately, they could have saved Mary Jo's life.
Clarke does an admirable job. He plays a flawed man whose father was harsh and unforgiving and whose brother's memories he could never live up to.
Writers Andrew Logan and Taylor Allen gives some insight into Ted's character and relationship with his father, but it doesn't excuse his disregard for the life of a young woman he seemed to care about and the cowardice he displayed in not taking responsibility for her death.