Sometimes in the hurry to watch as many of the Oscar nominated films some fall between the cracks. Totally glad I got this one now to review. This despite my hesitation with Clint Eastwood. What is it about the older generations? They cannot seem to move on from their antiquated (read: wrong all along) ideas. Doubling down they speak up about things like gun ownership, bad politics and racism. I mean, people! When you start at sentence with “Back in my day…” just stop there. Nothing good will follow after those words.
Moving on from personalities involved to the film itself…the excellent Kathy Bates earned a nomination here for her turn as Richard Jewell’s mother Bobi. But that is not to say there wasn’t some controversy. The controversy, which kind of overshadowed the release of the film and hampered merely judging it by its own merits, was in the portrayal of a female reporter who uncovered the FBI investigation of Richard Jewell. Some said it portrayed her as trading sex for the story. Bates was quoted as saying she hoped that the controversy would not dissuade people from seeing the film as it was a worthy watch. Seems like Mr. Eastwood can never get too far away from brouhaha.
That being said, on its own merits, the film is a solid one. I could not believe watching it (and it is based on the true story) that while I remembered the bombing, I did not remember Richard Jewell and what he went through afterwards. Really this was the first instance of cancel culture rearing its ugly head. We are often so desperate to find someone to blame that we lash out at the wrong person. Want so much to feel safer by putting someone in jail for crimes that we do shoddy work and charge the wrong person.
After having been fired from his job as a police officer and then getting into trouble as a campus security guard at an Atlanta college, Richard Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser – I, Tonya, Late Night), a 33-year-old single man still living with his mother, tries desperately to stay in the police milieu, so takes a job as a security guard at the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta.
Working one evening at a live concert, he spies a suspicious backpack under a bench. Always someone who goes by the book, Richard notifies some nearby police officers and insists they check it out after they show hesitation. Thankfully for everyone he insisted as not long afterwards they discover three pipe bombs in the bag.
As Richard and others are trying to get the crowd back 100 yards the bomb goes off. One person was killed and over a hundred were injured, but Richard escapes unscathed. In the first three days which follow he is hailed as a hero. Interviewed by all morning shows and even offered a book deal, Richard and his mom Bobi (Kathy Bates – Titanic, On the Basis of Sex) are incredibly proud.
Just as quickly as it happened, it seems, everything changes. A story by journalist Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde – Christmas with the Coopers, Her) comes out in an Atlanta paper saying that Richard Jewell is the subject of an FBI investigation as they believe he is the bomber.
Public opinion changes in the snap of your fingers and Richard is now public enemy number one. He and his mom are forced to hide out in their hide out in their apartment as the media is camped outside. He hires former colleague Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell – Jojo Rabbit, Vice) as his lawyer and his fight to prove his innocence is only beginning.
Our world is a fickle one. It can turn on you very quickly. A tough lesson learned the hard way by Richard Jewell, who unfortunately died in 2007 at the young age of 44. Trial by media. The media is vitally important in the world. But sometimes they abuse their power. Just try to “sell” stories instead of conducting responsible journalism and just telling the story.
What Clint Eastwood does have down pat is telling a story in a calm manner. All of his films feature that evenhanded kind of way of his. Without loads of fanfare it allows the viewer to focus on the story and the acting. Both of which are more than enough to hold your interest.
-The Making of Richard Jewell
-The Real Story of Richard Jewell