Friday, December 13, 2019

Movie with Abe: Richard Jewell

Richard Jewell
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Released December 13, 2019

There are many elements that make up a criminal profile. As with legal cases, historical precedent can be key, since an argument that someone might be capable of committing a particular act is stronger if there is evidence that someone similar has done so previously. Each situation will be different, of course, and influencing factors need to be considered when looking at potential suspects. A profile isn’t equivalent to a charge of guilt, however, and presuming that a person must have done something simply because statistics dictate it to be true is truly flawed.

Richard Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser) is an eager aspiring police officer who is fired from his job as a college security guard due to his overzealous abuse of authority. While working security at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, Jewell sees a suspicious backpack. He calls in a bomb squad and manages to clear most of the area to minimize casualties when the device detonates minutes later. After he is initially hailed as a hero, Jewell’s background makes him the target of an FBI investigation that paints him as a lone bomber seeking to be recognized as a hero. With no allies but his fiercely loyal mother (Kathy Bates) and the one lawyer he knows, Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell), Jewell continues to insist that he is not the person that those like FBI Agent Tom Shaw (Jon Hamm) and local reporter Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde) are so set on making him out to be.

This film spotlights a true story and a real-life person who was painted as a villain, to the point that, during filming in Atlanta, local passersby heard the film’s title and referred to Jewell as the man who bombed the Olympics. The actors involved in the film described a sincere effort to capture the spirit of Jewell, who died in 2007 at the age of forty-four from heart failure, and to represent the way he responded in an over-the-top manner to every possible situation, which rubbed some people the wrong way since they didn’t comprehend just how genuine he was. As a result, much of this drama is presented in a comic format due to Jewell’s good nature and the way in which his behavior, however well-meaning, often seemed so deeply incriminating.

Hauser, who has had a great past few years with supporting roles in films like “I, Tonya,” “BlacKkKlansman,” and “Late Night,” does a masterful job of becoming Jewell, so intensely likeable and peculiar at the same time. Rockwell is perfect as the shorts-wearing eccentric Watson, and Bates is appropriately maternal, protective, and vulnerable as Bobi Jewell. Wilde and Nina Arianda, as Watson’s employee, both give their scenes their all in memorable supporting turns. This film is an enlightening, if predictably embellished, look at a man misjudged by so many that manages to be affirming, entertaining, and immensely watchable.


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