MOVIE REVIEW: RICHARD JEWELL

Richard Jewell is the true story based on the article “American Nightmare: The Ballad of Richard Jewell” by Marie Brenner about the security guard who was the hero for saving lives at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and then ripped apart as the main suspect after the press and FBI decided he was the man But he was the wrong man in the end who had his life ripped apart in the media and with the FBI.

Clint Eastwood is as good as ever, a whopping 40 movies later, he has focused his last five movies on real life subjects from American Sniper to Sully and 15:17 to Paris. Eastwood likes the news we can see. His stories are about regular men doing their jobs and/or stepping up when needed and then look at how they were treated. In this one we see Jewell played by an outstanding Paul Walker Hauser. Remember that name. The entire cast is perfectly chosen and executed from Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, Jon Hamm, and Olivia Wilde to Nina Arianda, Ian Gomez, and Wayne Duvall.

The Warner Bros movie, Eastwood told us last night at a screening in Los Angeles that it started off at Fox and Warner Bros. but ended up at Warner. It world premiered at AFI Fest in L.A and opens nationally Dec 13 in time for a sure Oscars nomination run.

This is a movie about journalism and law enforcement when they do not dig enough, more than it is about a man alone. Eastwood and screenwriter Billy Ray, who did The Hunger Games and Captain Phillips, give us a story of a somewhat reckless media that appears corrupt and sloppy. There has been criticism and attack on Eastwood in the #MeToo era for a movie that shows a reporter (Kathy Scruggs)who traded sex for information from an FBI agent and who broke the suspect angle in the press. Kevin G Riley, editor in chief of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says that the film’s suggestion that its reporter Kathy Scruggs traded sex for information from an FBI agent was not true, and that the film’s intention was to undermine confidence in the media and law enforcement agencies. Quote: “There is no evidence that this ever happened, and … it’s offensive and deeply troubling in the #MeToo era.”

The film centers around an overweight unaware loser played by Hauser who does a perfectly toned job playing the man we knew little about or our memories would not let us remember that far back.  The lead role was once supposed to go to Jonah Hill (he ended up as a producer. Leonardo DiCaprio is also a producer) but the choice of not putting Hill in the role was the best thing Eastwood did in casting this. Hauser was the choice and Eastwood told us at the screening that Hauser is literally the spitting image of Jewell so much so they could be brothers, and that shaped his choice. Back to Hill. He does not have the innocence, pure softness of a mama's boy and small town authenticity needed for this role, no matter how hard he would have tried. Hill was not it.  The casting of an unknown name truly was the best route to go as we learn about  Jewell and Hauser as an actor as they both unfold in front of us in every scene. Kathy Bates plays his loving other to the T.

The script is well written and well balanced to give us enough time to learn about Jewell before the bombing.  This was a man who studied the penal code nightly, played video games extensively, had a gun collection, spent a lot of time practicing shooting (for his dreams of being official law enforcement one day) and lived with his mother as a grown man. Yes, he fit the profile. Yes, he appeared to be a person who wanted to make a name for himself so the evidence might have mounted against him on the surface, but at the core, he was the perfect victim to be the accused. He fit the proverbial profile.

Jewell was widely applauded for his quick thinking in finding  the backpack with the bomb which prevented many more people from being hurt or killed. We find out it was a former boss who had fired Jewell for over-zealous security policing on school campus years before that trigged the suspicion with the FBI. The film portrays that the Bureau quickly pointed the finger without doing in depth researching into timing and if this could have happened in said time frame.

Jon Hamm plays FBI investigator Tom Shaw who was convinced they’ve got their man but they did not. The movie shows Shaw getting sexual favors from the real-life reporter (but who died in 2002) at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Kathy Scruggs in exchange for the tip that went public with the Jewell as a suspect. Overnight, Jewell's life is turns upside down form hero to national villain. We see what his mother went through as seen through the eyes of Clint Eastwood. The race was on.

Sam Rockwell Watson Bryant played by an outstanding Sam Rockwell takes over as Jewell's attorney, the only attorney Jewell knows and who he worked for years before filling supply cabinets. Bryant sees the injustice and steps in to clear Jewell's name. He did and Bryant and his wife (also portrayed at Bryant's assistant in the movie) was in the audience last night here in LA and took a bow along with Jewell's real-life mother. Richard Jewell isn't around to see this film. He died a few years after all this happened to him at the age of 44 from heart due to diabetes. It's a shame he was not here to see this with his mother by his side, as she always was last night in Los Angeles and through what will be a nomination run.

The main actors were ALL extremely well cast.  This is a joint cast nomination, as the dance they created was perfectly synchronized and we feel each one. As Eastwood told us last night, letting actors do their thing is what he does and they did it.

Production companies: Malpaso, Appian Way, Misher Films, 75 Year Plan
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Cast: Paul Walter Hauser, Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, Jon Hamm, Olivia Wilde, Nina Arianda, Ian Gomez, Wayne Duvall
Director: Clint Eastwood
Screenwriter: Billy Ray, based on the article “American Nightmare: The Ballad of Richard Jewell” by Marie Brenner
Producers: Clint Eastwood, Tim Moore, Jessica Meier, Kevin Misher, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Davisson, Jonah Hill
Director of photography: Yves Belanger
Editor: Joel Cox
Music: Arturo Sandoval

 

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