The Kennedys are known just as much for their tragedies as they are for their political prestige, and a new film puts the spotlight on one of the family’s darkest hours. As you can see in this Chappaquiddick trailer, it’s the story of Ted Kennedy (Jason Clarke), Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara), and the fatal accident that made the whole country know the name of this tiny Martha’s Vineyard community.

What was the Chappaquiddick incident?

On July 18, 1969, then 36-year-old US Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy — one of President John F. Kennedy’s brothers — drove his car off the one-lane bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, MA. Ted escaped the car as it sank into a tidal channel, but his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne — a woman who worked on the 1968 presidential campaign of Ted’s brother Robert F. Kennedy — did not. She died, just 28 years old at the time. Ted later pleaded guilty to a charge of leaving the scene of a crash causing personal injury and received a two-month suspended jail sentence.

What if Chappaquiddick never happened?

If Ted Kennedy hadn’t driven off the bridge that night, he might have become the president like his older brother John. As CNN reports, the incident and the death of Mary Jo Kopechne dashed his chances in the 1972 and 1980 presidential elections. As it was, though, Ted was a Senator for the state of Massachusetts for nearly 47 years before his death in 2009, making him the fourth-longest-serving Senator in American history.

Was Chappaquiddick a conspiracy?

Some people think so. As The Guardian notes, some theorize Ted was set up by the Central Intelligence Agency, and others think he intentionally murdered Mary Jo to keep her quiet.

ted kennedy car getty images

What does the Chappaquiddick bridge look like today?

The Dike Bridge was later closed off and abandoned, and it rotted away even as tourists tore off hunks of wood as memorabilia. However, Google Maps shows that the bridge, seemingly rehabbed, is back in operation these days.

What’s the story with the movie Chappaquiddick?

The April 6 release was directed by John Curran (The Painted Veil), marks the feature-length writing debut of Andrew Logan and Taylor Allen, and also stars Ed Helms and Bruce Dern. It currently carries a 64 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. “Chappaquiddick is exactly what you want it to be,” writes Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman, “a tense, scrupulous, absorbingly precise and authentic piece of history — a tabloid scandal attached to a smoke-filled-room travesty.”

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