Richard Jewell Dec 14, 2019 0:26:20 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Dec 14, 2019 0:26:20 GMT -5
Richard Jewell (2019)
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Richard Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser, far right) consoles his mother (Kathy Bates) in Richard Jewell.
Clint Eastwood's Richard Jewell wastes no time getting us acquainted with its titular character: a pudgy, good-hearted low-man-on-the-totem-pole who works a series of odd jobs as a security guard. He dreams of being a police officer, with stern principles of respecting authority and keeping criminals off the streets. Chastised and derisively referred to as a "rent-a-cop" by students, Richard's occasionally overbearing principles cost him his job as a campus safety officer on a college campus. He nevertheless still returns home to his mom's (Kathy Bates) humble apartment where he's greeted with unconditional love and support. We see the love from his mom hold firm even in the most taxing situations.
Years after he's ousted from the college, Richard gets a freelance gig as an AT&T security guard, one day working a music event at Centennial Park during the 1996 Summer Olympics. Richard's tendencies to take his job a bit too seriously prove fruitful when, at the event, he discovers an unattended bag underneath a bench, which houses several large pipe bombs. The bombs eventually detonate, but not before Richard and law enforcement can push the crowd of people far enough away that casualties and injuries are kept relatively small. In a matter of moments, so it seems, Richard is hailed as a hero, and the humble freelancer is getting interviews on The Today Show.
The heroic talk is downplayed, however, when FBI agent Tom Shaw (Jon Hamm) is tasked to look into Richard's background. He finds that there have been several cases in the past where a seemingly out of touch schlub actually precipitates a bombing such as this one before playing the role of the savior. Shaw eventually links up with Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde), a reporter for the "Atlanta Journal Constitution," whose abrasive and salacious methods help her comb sources and paint Richard as guilty before proven innocent. The ensuing media circus and FBI interrogations take a toll on Richard and his mother, and Richard's frequency of raising red flags to authorities as they're trying to nail him only raise suspicions of a man who appears just smart enough to pull off such a horrific event yet dumb enough to incriminate himself. Richard's only hope of being left alone is through the loyalty and counsel of Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell), a low-level lawyer and former coworker.
Richard Jewell is portrayed by Paul Walter Hauser, who has been an actor I've watched since he gave a standout supporting performance in I, Tonya. Hauser has a neighborly quality by nature. He looks like the man who would help you get your car out of the snow, or loan you his lawnmower when yours won't start. His rotund figure and lispy, cheek-chewing way of speaking suggests he'll get typecast as dorky goofs, which is in itself disappointing. However, he brings the kind of warmth and inherent sympathy to his affectionate portrayal of Jewell you ultimately want from a story like this. His biggest strength is how understated he can be, even when a particular instance calls for theatrics. This is seen in the moment where Watson is grilling Richard over his uncanny tendency to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Richard claps back and tells him that he knows he's openly being mocked by the FBI agents when he tries to reiterate to them that he, too, is part of the law enforcement brotherhood. Alas, he can't do much to combat the trial by public opinion that is convinced he's an overweight slob who sought attention by carrying out an unthinkable act. Hauser's nuance is that of a veteran actor.
Eastwood has long had a fascination with either misunderstood or maligned American heroes — Chris Kyle (American Sniper), Chesley Sullenberger (Sully), and Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler (The 15:17 to Paris) to name a few — and Richard Jewell goes beyond the obvious heroism, unlike those films, to give us a glimpse at something bigger. This is a film that brings to light our inherent cynicism when it comes not only to the media (I'll leave the commentary on the unfair portrayal of Scruggs for my more in-tuned colleagues) but to people in general. We have such a nasty negativeness, perpetuated by around-the-clock media coverage of certain individuals and our own moral shortcomings, that permeates our discourse and attitudes to people like Richard Jewell. Eastwood highlights this by looking at a story that wasn't coexisting with social media nor the daily outrage machine of the current culture, who loves to chastise people through lengthy thinkpieces in an effort to stir up more controversy. It's compelling subtext that elevates Eastwood's long-documented economy when it comes to projects he directs ("shoot first, act later," as his process has sometimes been billed).
What struck me most about Richard Jewell was to the extent it looked at Richard's relationship with his mother. It's a relationship similar to the one I have with mine: equal parts mutually nurturing yet ambiguous insofar that you're not always sure who is doing more protecting of whom in given moments. At times, I was moved to tears by the way Richard's mother consoled her stressed son, and how he does the same for her during a terrific scene that has him snapping at her inside their now bugged apartment before promptly retracting. It's a lovely detail that ties this involving picture together. It's a focal point I won't soon forget.
Richard Jewell is effective entertainment for its target audience. Eastwood makes films your father would probably enjoy, and in that canon, you could certainly do worse. For the first time in a long time, it's the nuances and undertones that make this particular effort from Eastwood so immersive.
Starring: Paul Walter Hauser, Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, Jon Hamm, Olivia Wilde, and Ian Gomez. Directed by: Clint Eastwood.