Chappaquiddick, the film that reminds the world of what a skunk the late U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) was, had a soft opening this weekend, earning some $6.2 million and a seventh-place finish at the box office.

The film was presented in only 1,560 theaters nationwide, compared to the weekend's top-grossing film A Quiet Place, which opened at 3,508 theaters, and earned $50 million domestically and another $27 million overseas.

As a film, Chappaquiddick was compelling drama. A thriller.

What is sad is that it really happened.

Chappaquiddick was written by Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan. With the exception of a few minor tweaks for theatrical purposes, the film stuck to the facts that have been reported in court documents and by the media dealing with the events of July 18, 1969. The day Kennedy's black Oldsmobile went off Dike Bridge and landed on its roof in Poucha Pond on Chappaquiddick Island.

The day 25-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne was left to die.

Only Kennedy and Kopechne could ever know what happened that night on Chappaquiddick. No autopsy was performed, so it is impossible to know, but the diver who pulled Kopechne's body from the wreckage the following day suggested she may have been alive for several hours following the crash, and might have survived had Kennedy sought help. He did not and chose to report the incident, somewhat reluctantly, nine hours later.

A New York Times columnist panned the film as a "character assassination."

Like or dislike Ted Kennedy (or, rather, the Kennedy played so skillfully on the screen by Jason Clarke). Quibble if you chose with some of the assumptions and suggestions that have been made about that evening over these many years.

But there is no denying the cold, hard truth. And that is that Senator Edward M. Kennedy went to bed that night knowing that he left a woman submerged in a vehicle in a pond and did nothing about it.

Kennedy received a suspended sentence after pleading guilty to a charge of leaving the scene of an accident.

Why Kennedy chose to behave the way he did that night in 1969, we will never know. I suspect his motivation had more to do with his own self-interest than it did Mary Jo Kopechne's.

See the film.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. 

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