Coming soon to theatres from director Clint Eastwood and Warner Bros. is the story of a man who sees the world better than he is treated and his name is RICHARD JEWELL.
Richard (Paul Walter Hauser) is a very polite southerner who meets lawyer Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell) working for a firm delivering mail. Preparing to move on to a security job, Richard makes sure to say goodbye to Watson. As a university security, it doesn’t go well and once again he has to move on to another job. The one person standing by him is mom Bobi (Kathy Bates) knowing her son believes in law enforcement.
The opportunity comes for Richard to work security at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia’s Centennial Park. Taking his job serious, he is polite to everyone and even makes himself indispensable to on-sight law enforcement. His job also has its perks taking Mom to a concert in the park. Someone who isn’t happy about the Olympics assignment is FBI Agent Tom Shaw (John Hamm) and partner Dan Bennet (Ian Gomez).
Each day Richard is ready and stays alert to everything around him. One evening he has to stop a group of young kids from throwing bottles against a media tower and notices a backpack. Alerting authorities they at first don’t seem worried, but after closer inspection everyone leaps into action to get people away – including Richard.
When the bomb explodes, the contents flies into the crowd and people fall everywhere. A stunned Richard tries to do what he can to help those who are hurt. The mayhem is emotional for everyone and when Richard returns home to a grateful Mom, he can’t believe what has happened. Quickly the media hails him a hero and the attention makes Richard a tad uncomfortable but still very polite.
The FBI immediately jump on the case and start investigating everyone who was at Centennial Park and one name that pops up is Richard Jewell. Trying to get a scoop on the story if Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde), a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution who turns to Shaw for information and runs with it. Immediately Richard goes from being hailed as a hero to a villain.
Richard calls Watson Bryant at first to look over a contract but quickly needs much more help. Watson’s secretary Nadya (Nina Arianda) informs him that Richard is being looked at as a suspect in the bombing. Both Richard and mom Bobi are being emotionally torn apart with the things being said, the constant attack by the media and the life altering harassing by the FBI.
Yet Richard remains respectful until Watson reminds him that standing up for himself is just as respectful.
Hauser as Jewell is just that – a jewel! His portrayal of Richard is a combination of so many things from a very caring person who notices people to being a little over zealous wanting to be part of the law enforcement community to a son who will not tolerate anyone making his mother cry. From the moment of the bombing all he wants to do is help find the person responsible and in that lies Hauser’s stunning performance. Raised to be respectful, he knows that he is not everyone’s cup of tea but it doesn’t change how he treats them and Hauser portrayal gives Richard a depth that just tore at my heart.
Rockwell as Bryant is the loud to Richard’s soft feelings about what is happening around them. Not understanding how Richard can continue to be loyal to law enforcement that are trying to sacrifice him is stunning to Rockwell’s character. Keeping his client under control proves to be a challenge as well but one that has moments of smiles and even, dare I say, giggles. Knowing Richard to be an acquired taste, Rockwell’s Bryant can’t help but see what we as the audience sees. I am confessing here and now that I adore Rockwell and even more so in this film.
Bates as Mom Bobi is a simple woman who keeps her life tidy and believes one hundred percent in her son. So proud of him for saving lives after the bombing, she doesn’t understand how and why the vilification of her son can possibly be happening. What I love about Bates in this role is that at no time does her portrayal of Bobi fail to believe in her son and she is everything believable.
Wilde as Scruggs is just a reporter who from the moment she steps on screen is someone I wanted to just shake because of the tactics used to get her story. She is a very outward character in her mannerisms and behavior to the point that the audience in the theatre had, and I quote from the woman next to me, “just about enough of that woman!”. I can’t remember the last time I heard that from someone in the audience. Hamm as Shaw has issues of his own and the grumblings of being at the Olympics turns bad quickly. Seeing the result of the bombing puts him on an all-out idea that he will capture the bomber. The problem is his tactics along with those he works with at the FBI letting everything get out of hand. Hamm makes an awesome good guy and an equally awesome not so good guy.
Gomez as Bennet is just as guilty for the tactics against Richard as Shaw and what was so irritating is that neither of these men seen to have any guilt for it all. You know you’ve done a good job in your role when everyone wants to scream at you so well done. Arianda as Nadya is such a good person seeing exactly what Bobi, Bryant and the audience sees about Richard Jewell and she is a no nonsense character as well.
RICHARD JEWELL is absolutely one hundred percent a Clint Eastwood film. This actor/director takes stories of everyday people and put them on screen in such a way that we become a cheering squad by the end of the story. There is certainly nothing wrong with that to my way of thinking. What I truly enjoyed about this film is that Hauser’s portrayal of Jewell is so uncanny and so endearing. It would be easy to just play up the stereotypical southern boy instead of a man who was raised to believe in the good of people and the respect of those who know might know more, including law enforcement.
The film also forces us all to realize that, as Rockwell’s character says, we are confronted by the two most powerful forces in the world – the U.S. government and the media. That was said in 1996 without even realizing that statement would predict the future in many ways. Ruining a life in 1996 with print is one thing, if the same thing happened to Jewell today it would have been incredible worse and more dangerous than even I want to think about.
The last half hour of the film is one for a box of Kleenex as the story finally confronts all of what happened that evening in 1996 and how two men became even closer friends and a mom never stopped believing in her son.
In the end – the world will know his name and the truth!