From the film’s trailer that’s been playing everywhere, it does not take a genius to guess the film’s entire story. But the film’s pleasure lies not in the story, that many are already aware of, from the news articles, but in the way the events are re-created on film, courtesy of veteran director Clint Eastwood (UNFORGIVEN, MILLION DOLLAR BABY), screenwriter Billy Ray and a stellar cast delivering winning performances including relative newcomer Paul Walter Hauser as the titular Richard Jewell.
The film was based on an article “American Nightmare” published by Vanity Fair in 1997 and chronicles the life of Richard Jewell during the events that led to a bomb attack at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. Jewell then heroically saves lives after a bomb was detonated during the 1996 Summer Olympics. However, the FBI identifies him as one of many suspects and this leads to his unjust vilification by journalists and the press. The FBI cleared him after 88 days.
Everyone loves an underdog. When a film shows the underdog finally winning, it becomes a winning movie. But this movie takes things one step further. The underdog is persecuted. Richard Jewell who discovers the bomb is suspect of bringing in the bomb and has to clear his name. “Put eyes on him.” the FBI is told.
Eastwood’s talent for music and fondness for country music can be witnessed in the enlivened scene in the Park where singer Kenny Rogers delivers an arousing song. Eastwood did deliver one of his best films of his career (sadly a flop at the box-office), directing and starring him and his son, Kyle way back when in HONKYTONK MAN.
Eastwood’s film probably contains what is arguably the funniest segment in a film this year. This occurs when the entire spectator group at the Kenny Rogers concert doing the ‘macarena’ much to the chagrin of FBI agent Shaw (Joe Hamm).
The film also probably contains the best message in a film this year. “This is what you got. Go do you job, son!” says mother to son, Richard Jewell.
It is just simply endearing when a director takes the advice given in a movie script to heart. When Jewell is pulled in the office for a pep-talk by the campus Dean on taking his security duties too seriously, like stopping kids on the road for drugs testing, Jewel replies that he was told by him at a punch bowl during a party “I don’t want no Mickey-Mousing on these campus grounds.” Director Eastwood has taken this advice to heart. No Mickey-Mousing in this film with him taking the material in all serious earnestness, in creating on of his better movies in his career.
To director Eastwood’s credit, he has inserted into what can be considered to be a male oriented story strong female presence. The first is the well written and performed character of Jewell’s mother played by Oscar Winner Kathy Bates (MISERY). Bates delivers magnificently in what could be a small under-written role. Her one scene where she delivers a plea to the President of the United States to clear person’s name is proof that she deserves another Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Having downloaded the screener from the Warner Bros. site, I watched this segment 3 times as it was that awesome. I cried all three times from Bates’ performance. In what could be described as a hero without a (human)villain piece, the villain is the media as embodied n Scruggs, a reporter played with gusto by Olivia Wilde. Wilde’s character is one that changes from pure greedy evil to person with a conscience.
RICHARD JEWELL is the story of a hero, not a fictitious one found in perhaps the Marvel alternative universe but one that lives, suffers and experiences life as a human being does on the Planet Earth. This is the reason RICHARD JEWELL should be seen, as perhaps a sign of redemption for the human race that there is still much good to be found in the human race, especially during the Christmas season.