Dan Glaser’s Movie Podcast: Episode 04 — Chappaquiddick with John Trowbridge

Published on 2018-06-06

Welcome to Dan Glaser’s Movie Podcast: The ONLY Podcast You Have To Read. In each episode I go with a different comedian to see a movie and then we head to the closest coffee shop to chat about it over the internet. Yes it is a podcast, you just have to read it instead of listen to it. As always, you can catch up on all the other episodes here. Even better, consider supporting the podcast by subscribing! 

John and I met at the AMC Loews on Broadway and 19th one fine spring morning. I’ve been in New York for well over a decade now and not only have I never seen a movie in this theatre, I’ve never wanted to. It’s entirely underground so every movie is a 4DX experience as the NQR trains rumble by quite regularly. After the credits rolled we made our way to Brooklyn Roasting Company on 23rd street and had a little chat over two strong black coffees.

(John got upset with me after he told me that one of his dream roles would be Robin in a revamped DC Cinematic Universe but I told him he was more of a Flash type, the implication being that he does not read as “gymnast” but rather as “runner”)
(John got upset with me after he told me that one of his dream roles would be Robin in a revamped DC Cinematic Universe but I told him he was more of a Flash type, the implication being that he does not read as “gymnast” but rather as “runner”)

Dan: Well John, I want to start by thanking you for joining me here today on Dan Glaser’s Movie Podcast: The Only Podcast You Have To Read. Spring has sprung, love is in the air, and all across America people are ready for the weekend so they can kick back, relax and go see Chappaquiddick with the boys. I will start with a simple question: Is Ted Kennedy the original Large Adult Son?

John: Yes, to the masses, that will be his legacy. To me? He’s the original Don Vito.

Dan: Chappaquiddick: Viva La Ken. Before we get to the movie, I’m wondering how much you knew ahead of time. About the story, about Ted Kennedy himself. A biopic, like any historical movie, has to exist within a range of audience expectations, even if it’s just a result of different starting points for different people. Someone who lived through the Chappaquiddick Incident will probably walk away with a different experience than hot young millennials like us.

For me, all I knew was: Ted Kennedy drove off a bridge and killed a woman. In my head I always thought it was a big bridge like the Tappan Zee or something. When I saw that early, portentous shot of that putt putt golf ass wheelchair access ass looking new england bridgelette…I was…let down.

John: I agree, the bridge AND water situation looked 100% survive-able. Which makes Ted Kennedy look even more like a drunk fat lazy cry baby loser. More than I already thought! They never explain exactly how Ted Kennedy survived, so I have to assume he opened the door and tumbled out of the car as it was going off the bridge. Because if Ted Kennedy is so lazy/dumb/fat/drunk, how could he manage to weasel himself out a an oldsmobile?

What I thought going in: First, I thought this took place in Chappaqua, NY (famously the spot where Hillary (Killary) was seen hiking in the woods after losing the election).

I also thought that “Chappaquiddick” was the name given to Ted Kennedy after he killed the girl. From the papers or something. I had NO clue it was an island with a putt putt bridge that the township allowed powerful men to drive over.

Dan: Oh sure, like a fun nickname. The Boston Strangler, The Zodiac, The Chappaquiddick.

John: Right, like “The Zodiac” but for Massachusetts boat people.

Dan: If you don’t put your laundry away the Chappaquiddick will come and drive you off a bridge.

John: Right. Sometimes the kids like to go out into the woods at night and see if they can hear The Chappaquiddick, but it’s just an excuse to get drunk, kiss and kill your brothers former secretary.

Dan: If you say Chappaquiddick three times into your reflection in a bottle of Four Roses he appears behind you and drives you off a bridge. So, it seems like we both came in with the bare minimum, knowledge wise. I have a lot to say about this movie and I suppose we can walk through it all step by step, but one thing that I DID like is that they waste no time getting to “the incident.”

Should we start at the top? John, why don’t you set things up for us.

John: Will do! The movie starts with The Chappaquiddick (aka Ted Kennedy) giving an interview where he’s asked about living under the shadow of his respected brother, JFK (aka “El Presidente”). After being humiliated on national TV, he heads to a cabin to get tanked with his weird-haired friends and family. everybody thinks The Chappaquiddick is gonna run to be El Presidente Nuevo.

Dan: This movie comes out swinging with a dope ass Martha’s Vineyard booze cabin.

John: Truly nothing like a boozey cabin smoochfest with your 30–55 year old buds.

Dan: We are quickly introduced to The Chappaquiddick’s goofball sidekicks: Ed Helms and Jim Gaffigan. Ed Helms plays cousin Joe, the outcast Kennedy and plays him extra pathetic and gives a lot of Ed Helms Face. Jim Gaffigan plays Jim Gaffigan. Did you think they were miscast? The tone of this movie was pretty all over the place, in the way that people could call a “dark comedy” if they don’t really care what either of those words mean.

Although to be fair this movie is basically The Hangover Martha’s Vineyard Edition so maybe they were properly cast.

John: 100%. I was circling around “National Lampoon’s: Booze Cruise” myself. They we’re perfectly cast, although it would’ve been nice if Jim Gaffigan tried to do a boston accent but I understand his job in show business is to be tired, dumpy, and sweaty. Ed Helms on the other hand is copy+pasted right out of The Hangover. I was expecting a “Ed Helms plays the piano and explains the whole movie up to this point” scene. And if I’m being honest, the movie needed it! because they threw a lot of history at you in this movie and they never really give a clear answer as to how we should feel about the incident or towards the chappaquiddick.

Dan: I was just thinking about that. Jason Clarke plays Jason Segel playing Ted Kennedy with a…relatively nuanced performance. By nuanced I mean sometimes he is sympathetic but mostly he just sucks ass. Overall, I wouldn’t say the movie wants us to feel sympathy for The Chappaquiddick but they do give us the option of feeling compassionate.

Like, here are some things which could cause Ted to turn into The Chappaquidick; his horrible awesome dad. His dead as hell family. The pressure, etc. The movie says: “look, this guy has PRESSURE, etc.”

But he also sucks ass and refuses to take responsibility ever. I think they are pretty clearly on the side of Chappie Bad.

John: Yeah bottomline, the movie said “Ladies and Gentlemen, Peter Griffin!”

Dan: Ok back to the story. The party is bumpin, the tunes are spinnin, and Chappie asks one lucky lady, Mary Jo Kopechne to go for a late night drive down dead man’s bridge.

There isn’t a ton of sexual tension but we are given a nice misdirection earlier on when Mary Jo and her friend Brunette Girl are on the beach. Brunette Girl asks MJ if Teddy “asked her yet?” She is “smart and available, why wouldn’t he want you?” Turns out they are talking about a job!

Dark comedy right there. Anyway, they hit the road.

John: Real quick, before we get to the big splash, can I just say? Hollywood loves killing Kate Mara (Chappie, House of Cards, being in Fantastic 4). I don’t know why. I personally love Kate Mara and would love to see her see a project through!

Dan: I think this whole movie was written and produced by Pats fans and they just want to stick it to the Giants owners [Kate is the great grandaughter of New York Giants founder Tim Mara — ed.]

John: That being said, Ted gets loaded and they go for a spin, almost hit a cop, and take a wrong turn down towards Dead Man’s Bridge. Ted tokyo drifts off this pathetic putt putt bridge that shouldn’t be open to cars, the car flips and SOMEHOW the fattest/stupidest kennedy manages to squeak out of the car while the smart/slim/capable Mary Jo is left for dead.

Dan: We joke about this, but a woman died and is summarily dismissed and turned into a plot point for Our Guy Chappie. If we are willing to give this movie the benefit of the doubt, maybe we call that commentary on how the actual incident played out across the national consciousness. The girl was some girl but the Guy, the Guy was A Kennedy. Ted looks like a dumbass shit bag the entire movie.

I can’t imagine Teddy Kennedy is doing the late night circuit right now to promote this movie. Actually, are there a lot of biopics about people who are still alive? [Ted Kennedy died in 2009 — ed.]

Ok I guess he is dead nevermind/ But still, I bet he isn’t out there promoting this movie.

John: Roman J. Israel Esquire is the only one that comes to mind.

Dan: Ok, smash cut to: Ed Helms wakes up in the penthouse suite with empties everywhere. “WHAT HAPPENED LAST NIGHT?!” Mike Tyson walks out of the boathouse with a pet Tiger.

John: Ed helms (who didn’t hook up because he’s not a REAL Kennedy) wipes the Goose Island lager off his no-chin, grabs Mr. Hot Pockets and they run to the car to try to get The Chappaquiddick to come clean to the police.

Dan: It looks like things are gonna come clean by morning and everything will work out. This is the first of many sequences where Chappie promises to “do the right thing” and then subsequently reneg. The movie is not subtle about this personality trait.

Just before Teddy nods off to bed he calls his dad, who rules so much. Again, not having grown up during the Kennedy dynasty, I wonder how many of these characters, cousin Joe, Grandpa Joe, Teddy himself, come with a load of baggage that I’m not aware of. I’m guessing Grandpa Joe has a reputation in real life?

John: Grandpappy Kennedy is barely hanging onto life, but that won’t stop him from brutally shitting on his ONLY SON WHO HASN’T BEEN ASSASSINATED, Dah Chappyquiddy.

Dan: Ooh I want to add, this movie gave me a TON of respect for telephone operators. Really, the unsung heroes of America, according to this movie. Tons of phone operator work, connecting Kennedy’s with Kennedy’s and non-Kennedy’s alike, directing collect calls and transferring numbers left and right.

John: This movie was a love letter to landlines

Dan: If not for our brave phone operators, The Chappaquiddick might still be out there, haunting our coastal Atlantic beach towns, even today. Ok let’s fast forward a little bit. The local PD finds the overturned car with the body and shit hits the fan.

This is where the movie a) goes crazy and b) gets fun.

John: Yes, the shit hits the fan BUT you never get the feeling like “uh oh, they’re going to catch The Chappaquiddick!” Worst case, The Chappaquiddick isn’t going to be Presidente and the Kennedy name will be ruined.

Dan: Ya I love the (lack of) stakes in all of this.

John: But the cops find the mess just in time for the chappie to issue a statement about his side of things. The movie proceeds for a while, with a series of events with the chief of police, family of the deceased, NY Times, and everybody except for the press doing everything they can to Help Da Chappie.

Dan: Another interesting thing about biopics is that like, we do know the high level outcome. We know he doesn’t go to jail. I don’t know much but I know that he sticks around in the senate basically forever but also he is a punchline.

Ok so Teddy and his Goof Troop try to handle things their way, a mix of telling the truth and tripping over their own dicks, but all the while Grandpa Joe is making calls and getting the Big Guns ready to TCB. John what did you think of Grandpa Joe?

John: i love Grandpa Joe, he’s a remix of Darth Sidious and the old bell grandpa from Breaking Bad. My favorite Grandpa Joe scene? When he got his maid to roll him into The Chappie’s bedroom, told the maid to say “Your father wants to say something to you”, and then he SLAPS the chappie in the face, and that’s it.

Dan: I like when he struts out on stage and says “It’s Kennedy, Bitch!”

John: Grandpa Joe is a ride or die Kennedy and to be fair to him, it’s been mostly die.

Dan: A big motivation for Ted’s “behaviour” is his desire to do right by dad. He is a big head dorkus and dad knows it but he is also the Last Kennedy so watcha gonna do?

John: Thankfully, Grandpa Joe is always playing 4D chess. that’s why he’s enlisted “The A Team.”

Dan: Hell yeah, You’re gonna call in THE BIG GUNS to handle your large adult son. John, I love these fucking guys. The next day Ted arrives back at the compound and is greeted by a room full of suit wearin, mean muggin, smoking ass lawyers.

John: The A-Team is a crack team of retired vacuum salesmen looking old dudes tasked with cleaning up the Kennedy’s crimes. This is where the hard jokes start rolling in. Whoever wrote this movie for sure ran through the UCB sketch program because these scenes HEIGHTEN, HUNTY!

Dan: These guys are a combination of mafia fixers, sleazy minor league baseball scouts, and the kids in the hall all in one. Their favorite bit:

Telling Chappie, “Ok fine! But as long as you didn’t do X, we’ll be fine!”

“It’s ok, as long as we have the death certificate from the morgue, we’ll be fine!”

John: “Wait, I sent the death certificate to the NY Times. Was I not supposed to do that?”

Dan: Forehead slaps all around. “Ok Ok, it’s all under control, just don’t tell the police anything!”

John: “Ok…starting NOW!”

Dan: Aye Caramba! “Ok, ok, relax. So long as we still have all those banana creme pies that the Queen Of England ordered for her big gala the press will forget all about this drowned broad.”

John: (wiping creme off his chin) “Uh oh! I thought those were community pies!”

Dan: I love these guys. They basically steal the show form this scene onwards. They are the devil on Ted’s shoulder while Ed Helms plays the pleading Angel. The rest of the movie basically becomes a series of unfortunate events trying to get “the plan” straight.

John: AND one scene where The Chappie wears a neck brace to Mary Jo’s funeral to gain sympathy and everybody on the planet sees through it. This is particularly funny because everybody tells him it’s a bad idea, he ruins somebody’s funeral, and then SMASH CUT to The Chappie with the A team “Ok, so the neck brace was a bad idea.”

Dan: Before the fixers show up, Chappie is: irresponsible. After they show up, he really comes into his own as: doofus. The neck brace sequence is great. There’s also a great shot of him flying a kite on the beach like it’s the the third act of Flowers for Algernon. He never asked for any of this! He just wanted to bang a secretary and go back to the regata.

John: Holy shit AND a scene where he’s trying to process killing a woman and then he turns on Davey and Goliath (a claymation show for children) and he starts to laugh and smile like a true doofus. I was expecting a scene where a maid feeds him cut up hot dogs.

Dan: Honestly, the movie pretty unambiguously paints Ted Kennedy as a) adulterous and b) suffering from learning disabilities These are the subplots to the main thrusts of his character: negligent and amoral.

John: A borderline illiterate alcoholic making unforgivable mistake after unforgivable mistake. So after bungling the narrative 45 times, he proposes to go on national TV to set the record straight.

Dan: Yes, the boys at legalzoom (promo code: CHAPPIE) decide that the best course of action will be to get in front of the cameras and spill the (Boston) beans.

John: At the same time, he has one final stand off with Grandpappy Joe and tells him that he doesn’t know who he is or what the hell he’s doing, and if he can just figure out these basic things about himself (he’s in his late 40's?) he can be great like his brothers.

Dan: Joe slaps him across the face and tells him “it’s Kennedy, bitch!” The main conflict in this movie is internal: Teddy wrassling with whether he should come clean, be a Kennedy about this whole thing and follow his “moral compass” or be a Kennedy about this whole thing, sweep it under the rug, and be a dirty birdy for daddy.

Ed Helms plays the vocal conscience again and basically tells Chappie that he can’t deal with the lies and he gonna quit.

John: Chappie tells Ed Helms that maybe he’s right and to go back to his UCB days and submit a packet to him in the form of Chappie’s resignation from the senate.

Dan: “I won’t pay you cousin Joe but it will be great exposure.” So cousin Joe, excited that Teddy is ready to do the right thing, sets off to his desk to pen his magnum opus. Yadda yadda yadda, Chappie decides to read a prepared statement from one of the Law Dawgs instead.

In a wild act of disrespect, he even makes poor Ed Helms kneel in front of the camera with the cue cards for his non resignation speech. ICE COLD.

John: Truly brutal how he goes Grandpa Joe on Ed Helms. But yes, Chappie chooses to go Darth Vader and become a pathetic monster for his master who hates him. Then we cut to America taking the bait and falling for it.

Dan: Be sure to check out my hot twitter parody account Emo Ted Kennedy. It’s weird to think of this movie as like, a political cover up story, because there is really no tension on that front. We kinda know from the beginning that the cover up will work. No one will really care right? This movie reminded me a little of Titanic in that way: we know how it’s gonna end but we are all here to enjoy the ride and those bomb ass costumes.

John: There is zero tension which leaves me to believe this is a dark comedy and not a drama.

Dan: I felt like i was watching a 90 minute Bonobos ad. And the Oscar goes to: Tasteful pastel chinos!

John: THE PASTELS BE POPPIN, BISH! SWEATER OVER BUTTON UP WITH HIGH WATER SLACKS ALL DAY. (PROMO CODE: ALIBI)

Dan: John, I have to ask: did you ever summer in New England? Did you find those outfits and long shots of the rocky shore evocative?

John: Of course! there’s NOTHING like spending a New England summer under-aged drinking and getting poison sumac.

Dan: I never really made it that far north other than like, to a wedding or two in Newport.

John: it’s all about the rowboat and stepping barefoot into the seaweed.

Dan: Knocking back a few clams and drinking some Del’s Summer Shandy out of a Sperry’s Top-sider

John: It’s important to stay in a cabin drinking Mount Gay/Captain Morgan’s and playing Egyptian Rat Fuck and making out outside while getting eaten alive. And then saying “we’re getting eaten alive”

Dan: Does everyone still love the Kennedys? I feel like Hyannis Port is Winterfell and there must always be a Kennedy in Winterfell. I expected the press corp during Ted’s Big Speech to start chanting “the king in the North!”

John: The Vineyard Remembers, yes. Well this movie has but 1 lesson: if you are a Kennedy, everybody (even the parents of the girl you just killed) will help you get out of a jam. So I guess yes, people still love the Kennedys.

Dan: Yeah the “real footage” interviews with people on the street that close out the movie really bring home that point.

John: The movie ends with a series of braindead Americans talking about how Ted Kennedy got a bum deal and how they’d vote for him again in a heartbeat. Then there’s a VO of the REAL Chappie giving a speech to congress and getting a standing ovation.

Dan: But don’t forget the 2nd lesson of the film: New Jersey sucks ass. Before they kill her off, most of Kate Mara’s screen time is spent being told how she is wasting her life in dang ass Jersey City and she should get back in with the big dawgs in DC.

John: That’s right, NJ’s main purpose is to be a place to store dead bodies for the Kennedys.

Dan: That grand Manhattan Mini Storage across the Hudson. Ok so the movie ends and we are given a nice Animal House style where are they now for all our main characters. Anything in particular that we missed or that you want to talk about?

John: I think that’s it. This movie wasn’t really anything besides Chappie killing a girl, making up a story with his pube-haired family and Mad Men extras, lying to the american people, and being honored.

Dan: Mmm, ya plot-wise, pretty straight forward. At first I want to compare it to something like Jackie, for obvious reasons. I assume the intention here is to present a portrait of Ted Kennedy as…a black sheep type heir to a throne and responsibility he a) didn’t want and b) wasn’t prepared or groomed for. Like Jackie the “main character” here is pretty much defined by the death of Jack. Unlike Jackie, Chappaquiddick feels less concerned with that portrait and more interested in “movie-ing” it up with zany characters and situations.

Is that unfair? Is this movie trying to be Serious the whole time and just failing?

John: No that’s fair, I honestly think this movie was a last dig at The Chappie by somebody who hates the Kennedy family, i mean you just don’t have those hilarious scenes with Chappie pulling the rug out from under the A team if you’re trying to make compelling Oscarbait.

Dan: Did you like Jason Clarke here? I thought he did great, and like Jackie, I imagine it’s a challenge or at least a series of interesting decisions to play someone from modern history. Someone for whom a ton of video footage exists on which to base your portrayal. I have no idea if his Chappie was accurate but it certainly felt like a real dude. A dude who sucked ass but still a real dude. Better than some of the other performances in this movie.

John: I think the Kennedy’s owe Jason Clarke one of their “commit a crime and have nothing happen to you” tokens. Jason Clarke could’ve played this WAY dumber and fatter. The only reason one would think The Chappie can dress himself is because Jason Clarke made him seem barely coherent.

Dan: You raise an interesting question:: Are there any Kennedys left to give those tokens out?

John: Well we got the young red Kennedy whose mouth was too wet after the State of the Union. We also have a Lady Kennedy that runs Disney.

Dan: Ok so they’re doing fine. Full disclosure: my first cousins are Kennedys I don’t know if they are Kennedy Kennedys but that’s their name. In fact: one of them recently had a baby and named him, I shit you not: Eddie

John: Lock up your daughters folks, there’s a new Chappie in town!

Dan: Baby Geniuses 5: If You’re Chappie and You Know it Clap Your Hands

John: (The sound of a hand hitting a forehead twice)

Dan: Ok before we get to the Big Questions, I liked the score, I liked the cinematography. A few too many lingering shots of “bridges” and “roads”, but that’s Ok. It’s all part of the Chappie myth.

John: There was also one weird shot of the Chappie taking off what looked like a very small girdle that was never explained? Maybe I’m just dumb on that one.

Dan: Loved that. Really humanized the guy. Look, he’s fat. We’re fat. Can’t we all just get along?

John: Also! as we’re “recording” this “podcast”, the AP is reporting “Connecticut court vacates murder conviction of Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel, orders new trial.”

Dan: Spoiler alert: He gonna walk.

John: Yeah good luck convicting anybody connected to the Kennedy’s anywhere north of Pennsylvania!

Dan: Turn on the Victrola boys and start the music. It’s time to do the old Kennedy Shuffle right on out the courtroom door. Ok, I have a few questions I’d like to ask before we call it a day. Ready? What were your three favorite things about the film?

John:

1) The A-Team Head-Slap-A-Thon

2) The fact that in the middle of hiding a murder, The Chappaquiddick took a break to have brunch with his bros

3) Grandpappy Joe wrenching “ALIBI!” repeatedly over the phone

You?

Dan: For me:

1) I loved the Scuba guy who helped the cops pull up Kate Mara’s dead body. That dude couldn’t stop bragging about how good he can pull bodies out of the water. Give him a spin off. One ticket to The Scuba Puller please!

2) Huge fan of the real life interviews at the end of the movie. All the dudes polled were like “Hey man, shit happens when you’re drunk.” All the women were like, “Hmm yeah I mean I’d vote for him and also I wonder if he’s single.”

3) I liked how Jim Gaffigan and Ed Helms had to strip to their underwear and waddle around on that bridge for a while.

Ok, if you could change one thing about the movie, what would it be?

John: Besides the country honoring The Chappie for murdering a girl and leaving her for dead, I would’ve liked to see The Chappie talk to his wife one time? if the papers are talking about me murdering a girl with my car, i’d prolly get on the horn with my wife. we could’ve also gotten a solid phone call scene where Mrs. Chappie barks “You driving tanked again, Teddy, you dumb fat fuck!” Curb Your Enthusiasm shit!

Dan: Well they did have one scene with her on the drive to the funeral. She gives him a good old “fuck you Teddy”

John: The movie needed to make their relationship more clear then, literally everybody in the movie tells The Chappie to go fuck himself in some fashion. i thought she was some friend of the family put in the car by Grandpappy Joe. What would you change?

Dan: From my perspective, I told you how I feel about the bridge at the very beginning. Why not exercise a little poetic license and instead of having them fall 3 feet into a pond, have them try to jump the Grand Canyon and plunge into the Colorado river or something? you could have a killer sequence where Chappie tries to get Kate Mara’s seat belt loose during the plummet. They’re screaming at each other on the way down and maybe there’s a deer in the backseat that they hit earlier and he’s screaming too. Right before they crash Chappie can say something like, “I’m getting to fat for this shit” and we see that his girdle is actually a parachute and he pulls the ripcord just in time.

Ok, final question: you are given the chance to change the title of this movie, what do you call it?

John: Wow, well I think “National Lampoon: Booze Cruise” gets the point across but you could also do “Ernest Avoids Manslaughter” or “Teddy Boy”?

Dan: I’d got with either Ted and Loving It or Don’t Tell Mom The Secretary’s Dead. Well John, we certainly learned a lot today. Or at least, we have a lot to think about. Any last words for our readers?

John: Yes, in the case of Ted Kennedy, it’s all “Happy Chappie!”

Dan: Agreed. And remember, always be nice to your little sister or the Chappaquiddick will get you!

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John Trowbridge is a motivational instagram model and 2017 JFL “New Face of Comedy”. Currently, John is writing for a TV show but plans to be unemployed in 2 weeks.