Starring: Jason Clarke, Kate Mara, Ed Helms
Director: John Curran
Running Time: 101 mins
The Senator is an American film about the Chappaquiddick incident, where Senator Ted Kennedy, brother of former President JFK, negligently caused the death of a passenger in his car when he drove into a lake.
The true story of yet another tragedy in the Kennedy family, The Senator is a factual and balanced, albeit largely unspectacular depiction of the history. While the film features strong performances from the likes of lead Jason Clarke, it lacks the energy to really captivate you as a viewer.
There’s always a difficult balance to strike with more modern historical dramas, with the threat of natural bias or outright sensationalism always a major issue, particularly when a film presents itself as a definitive and accurate retelling of history.
For the most part, The Senator chooses to focus heavily on historical accuracy and political balance, which it manages very well, and pays tribute to both sides of the debate surrounding Ted Kennedy and the Chappaquiddick incident, which effectively ended his chances of ever being elected President of the United States.
That balance is most evident in the film’s closing stages, in which it gives a really insightful and impressively measured overview of the feelings of American people in the aftermath of the incident, showcasing that there is more to the story than either one side may have ever suggested.
However, while the film does a great job with balance and accuracy, it’s never the most enthralling watch. The Senator does feature strong performances from leads Jason Clarke, Ed Helms, Kate Mara and more, but as characters in a film, they’re never all too interesting.
In its efforts to remain accurate and level-headed, The Senator plays out like a dramatised Wikipedia page of the incident, with little in the way of captivating emotional or character drama to be seen throughout.
As a result, while there is a lot to learn from watching The Senator, the movie is also a rather dull watch for much of its runtime, and as such it can be tough to really engage with the history. It’s a bit of a catch-22, as the movie would equally be criticised for sensationalising the history, but I feel that there should have at least been a little more emotional drama at play here. So, that’s why I’m giving The Senator a 6.9 overall.