Ted Kennedy's career, successful as it seemed, had a long shadow hanging over it. In 1969, what was supposed to be a lighthearted social gathering turned dark when later in the evening, Kennedy's car flew off the small, unrailed Dike Bridge into the water. Kennedy swam free, but his passenger Mary Jo Kopechne remained trapped inside. The car was pulled from the water the next day, with Kopechne's body inside. A woman's life ended, multiple young women's careers were derailed, and Kennedy's presidential aspirations were permanently dashed. Few involved have ever spoken publicly about the night, and it's especially eerie to see photos of the real Chappaquiddick people vs their movie counterparts.
The movie, out now, takes a harder look at Kennedy's actions that fateful night, although what's actually known is limited. The politician organized a party to celebrate with a group of women who had worked hard on his older brother's presidential campaign, known as the Boiler Room Girls. Towards the end of the evening, time disputed, reasons unknown, Kennedy drove off with one of the women, Mary Jo Kopechne. She never returned. The next day, Kennedy's car was retrieved from the water beneath an unrailed wooden bridge leading to another island. Inside was Kopechne.
Debates go on to this day as to why she and Kennedy left the party, who had been drinking and how much, and why Kennedy didn't call for help after he came ashore from the crashed vehicle, leaving Kopechne behind. In Chappaquiddick's version, some people claim that Kopechne was alive for at least an hour after the car sank, trapped inside, and could have been rescued had Kennedy immediately phoned for help. But with the only people actually involved now both gone, everything added to the discussion is hearsay or assumption. Kennedy went on to have a long and storied Senate career, while Kopechne's death is bandied about by conspiracy theorists. Though it pushes its own point of view, Chappaquiddick at least gives some humanity to people most only know as names from a newspaper.