Last night I had my second viewing of John Curran‘s Chappaquiddick (Entertainment Studios, 4.6.18). It happened at Pete Hammond‘s KCET class at the Sherman Oaks Arclight. Curran and Jason Clarke, who plays the 36 year-old Ted Kennedy as he grapples with an appalling and ruinous tragedy, were the post-screening guests.

We all know the basic bones of the Chappaquiddick story, but most of us don’t know the particulars. It’s not pretty and certainly not admirable. The film is a study in self loathing all around. In a good way.

This horror story was oddly concurrent with the saga of astronaut Neil Armstrong, hundreds of thousands of miles away that weekend and about to step onto the moon. Armstrong’s story will be depicted later this year in Damian Chazelle‘s First Man (Universal, 10.12). Clarke costars in that film also, portraying astronaut Ed White.

Clarke isn’t a dead ringer for Kennedy but the voice is close enough, and his whole performance is an expression of “Jesus, what have I done?” with a side dish of “Lord, take this cup from me.” Kennedy acted deplorably during this episode, but Clarke’s inhabiting of this nightmare stirs something close to…pity? You poor, alcoholic, overwhelmed weak sister. If you hadn’t gotten riled by that Edgartown cop and gunned the engine you might’ve…forget it. The woman you killed, Mary Jo Kopechne, has been dead for nearly a half-century, and you’ve been dead for eight and a half years. But you’re both alive in this new film, and it’s quite the revisiting. It sinks right in.

For some reason a guy who works for the KCET series came up during the q & a and told me to stop taking video. Why? What’s the problem? Leave me alone.