Richard Jewell ⭐️⭐️⭐️½
Some movies not only tell a good, entertaining story, but share an important message that could impact any of us in our everyday lives.
There are two movies in December 2019 that this description might fit. One is definitely Richard Jewell which deals with a demonizing media and the other, Bombshell, with sexual harassment in the workplace, that I haven’t seen yet in order to determine if I like it or not.
Before reading further, there are many spoilers about specific scenes that follow. If you want to see this film but haven’t yet, then come back to this post when you’re done watching. My review linked at the beginning of this post is spoiler-free.
… you’ve been warned SPOILERS AHEAD ….
Fox News sat down with the Richard Jewell’s widow and she describes what it was like after this terrible event in his life took place.
“It did scar him. He was very paranoid,” Jewell conceded, acknowledging that they met and married in 1998, several years after the bombing. “I didn’t know Richard before the bombing. But afterward, he was so paranoid, he would be watching all the windows when we were out in public — looking in the rearview mirror… He would have nightmares — wake up in cold sweats — until he died, he still had those.”Richard Jewell’s widow: 1996 Olympics hero ‘scarred’ by false FBI accusation and media smears | Fox News
60 Minutes interviewed Richard Jewell at least two times. The first was in 1996, following the FBI issuing a statement that he was no longer a target of the investigation.
Six years later, Jewell calls out the 60 Minutes team for also thinking he was the bomber at the time, without a trial and conviction. Not innocent until proven guilty. The man should have been labeled a hero by the media, but instead because the FBI had considered him for 88 days a suspect, they latched onto the villain narrative that Jewell said continued to haunt him. His widow would confirm that he still had nightmares about his treatment up to his death in 2007.
On January 2, 2002 60 minutes revisited the case:
Perhaps the most incredible thing is after this happened, nobody ever apologized to Richard Jewell involved with that incident. He only got a letter from the FBI saying he was no longer considered a target of their investigation.
The Controversy Surrounding Reporter Kathy Scruggs Portrayal
Olivia Wilde plays AJC reporter Kathy Scruggs who first broke the story based on information leaked from an FBI source. The newspaper is angry that the movie suggests that Scruggs offered to have sex with the FBI agent in exchange for information.
“The AJC’s reporter is reduced to a sex-trading object in the film,” the letter says. “Such a portrayal makes it appear that the AJC sexually exploited its staff and/or that it facilitated or condoned offering sexual gratification to sources in exchange for stories. That is entirely false and malicious, and it is extremely defamatory and damaging.”AJC.com
Warner Bros. is digging in and standing by their disclaimer already at the end of the film that says it is a dramatization of true events. It’s a line many “true stories” go to when they play with the historical facts. Like when Queen’s Freddy Mercury tells the band in Bohemian Rhapsody he had AIDS in a meeting long before it actually happened.
Movies play with timelines, facts, blend characters for dramatic purposes. Am not sure if that’s what happened here with Scruggs, but I noted that her story in the film seems incomplete. Scruggs in the film realizes that Jewell is innocent and we never see her go back to the paper and print this revelation. I’m sure it must have happened, but the film doesn’t show us this part leaving Scruggs as an adversarial character who has a “he didn’t do it” moment. To the AJC’s credit it doesn’t really walk her back as a villain.
Ironically, Scruggs becomes demonized by her portrayal in the movie, just as Scruggs reporting — the facts — that Richard Jewell was a suspect in the bombing.
Scruggs died in 2001 from an overdose of pain medicine, so she can’t defend herself against the accusation of “sex for info.” Olivia Wilde is sticking by her portrayal in a series of tweets that say she “researched Scruggs” before starring in the film and things aren’t what they seem.
From what I could dig around with minimal research, Scruggs worked hard and partied hard. This is from people who knew and worked with her. She died, as did Jewell, in her early 40s. Scruggs dated a police officer and was friendly with the police. It isn’t that much of a dramatic stretch to believe there was some pillow talk on the Richard Jewell case, but that is all just hypothetical, there is nothing factual.
Just as there was nothing factual to tie Richard Jewell to the Centenniel bombing.
My guess, and it’s only that, is that the AJC lawsuit will be thrown out. Richard Jewell isn’t presented as a factual documentary. It an entertainment film “based on” true events. For Warner Bros. and other studios, that is the literary and legal get out of jail free card.
It sucks that Scruggs isn’t alive to defend herself on this one. My suspicion is that the truth is somewhere in the middle of what the film portrayed and the AJC asserts.
Eric Rudolph – The Real Centenniel Bomber – was arrested in 2005
It took the feds another couple years to figure out who really did it, only to have Eric Rudolph go on the lam in the Appalachian mountains, making apprehension difficult. He was apprehended digging through a trash bin in 2003, some 7 years after the bombing took place. Rudolph also was responsible for two other bombings, a lesbian bar and an abortion clinic.
Rudolph traded a death sentence for life by admitting responsibility for the bombings. Richard Jewell was finally, officially exonerated in 2005, only to die himself in 2007.
Richard Jewell Died in 2007
Jewell was a heavyset man and died on August 29, 2007 from medical complications related to diabetes. He was just 44 years old.
This is one of the saddest parts of the story, and yet it is reduced to text at the end of the movie. We never get to see any happiness for Richard Jewell in the film, save for the letter from the FBI after 88 days of hell for his family and him, that he wasn’t a suspect any longer.
The FBI knew he couldn’t have made the phone calls and yet it took them nearly three months to admit he could not have been in two places (essentially) at one time.
No to Oscar for Kathy Bates as Bobbi Jewell
Kathy Bates has already played the momma character — in The Waterboy. Whenever she spoke, I kept thinking I’d see Adam Sandler come out and crack some joke.
Paul Walter Hauser is great as Richard Jewell, but I’ve seen better male acting performances in 2019.
There are parts I wished would have been fleshed out better in the film, notably an epilogue section would have been good at the end showing that Richard Jewell got married. We do see him in a brief scene as a police officer years later and we get the text messages, but there was an opportunity to do a little more.
Kathy Scruggs was a little too important in the story. Sure, she broke the story, but the film returned to her more than it needed to and as now we’re seeing with the AJC vs. Warner Bros conflict, it was an unnecessary distraction from Jewell’s story. There were multiple news outlets that Richard Jewell felt did him dirty — he would eventually sue several of them (CNN, The New York Post, NBC, etc) and all settled with him except for AJC which stood by their reporting as accurate.
Instead of focusing on Scruggs so much, maybe the film should have focused on a collection of news outlets and specific quotes actually made on air. There has to be YouTube videos of that coverage. No legal disputing those facts. Would have been interesting to see a brief montage of that real reporting.
All in all, I think Clint Eastwood did a pretty good job on the film. Sure, improvements could have been made to make it better but the acting is good.
Reviews by Others
Let’s see, so far, what other moviegoers think of Richard Jewell.
Did I miss your review? Use the comments to tell me about your movie-related/review blog and I’ll follow. I like following movie-related blogs. Yes, even those who disagree with my reviews and vice versa.
- An Odyssey Through Film: “…benefiting from stellar performances while serving as a serviceable reminder of its late subject’s selfless efforts, Richard Jewell is merely an above-average topping of his tepid recent output. Questionable writing remains an issue as details are either glossed over or excessively embellished upon as we’ve come to expect from similar true story fare, however the focal acuity in chronicling Jewell’s journey is very admirable.”
- Bill Pence (3/5): ” a well-acted and directed film that follows the investigation after the 1996 bombing in Centennial Park in Atlanta, during the Olympics. Unfortunately, the film is marred by a significant amount of adult language, and felt overly long at two hours and nine minutes.”
- Blaine L. Pardoe (5/5): “This is a sobering film, one that has dramatic ups and downs. It leaves you thinking, wondering, and in my case, worrying. Out of this year’s crop of films, Avengers Endgame ranks first, Richard Jewell is number two. While I am not sure I will buy a copy and re-watch it, I am glad that I did see it and you should too.”
- Bookshelf Battle: “Overall, great movie and shocking look at some of the tactics that were used against Jewell, including a bizarre attempt to trick him into confessing to things he didn’t do by telling him he was participating in a training film instead of a taped interrogation. Sad to say it happened in America.”
- Burnt Orange: “The movie is fine. True to form, people will stop talking about it in a few months because another movie will spark a new controversy. And once again, Richard Jewell will be shoved out of the spotlight as quickly as he was shoved into it.”
- fanboyreviewer (3.5/4): “While it had its flaws, this was overall a really solid biopic with some well-directed tension and excellent performances with an investing story.” (Ed: this review is by an extra actor actually in the film)
- Film Fodder (4/5): “…is a very interesting, captivating biopic that has some top-notch acting and solid writing. It has a valuable message to be careful about letting your opinion be swayed by anything you hear without proof. Although it can get a little slow and redundant in places, it’s still definitely worth going to see.”
- Great Martin: “The actors are the ones who make this movie with the screenplay Billy Ray a little too scattered and director Clint Eastwood seems to want to show that liberals don’t run the movie business so we have a lot of unnecessary politics and wasted time.”
- Griff’s Picks (Grade: B-): “To Eastwood, Jewell is a hero not just because he saved people’s lives, but also because he was an ordinary and imperfect man who rose to the occasion when the moment demanded it. That’s the story Richard Jewell should be telling, and when it fully sticks to that path it succeeds. While Richard Jewell has its problematic elements, it ultimately works because of Paul Walter Hauser’s striking performance as a flawed man who rose to the occasion when it was needed most.”
- Jeff Huston: ” Eastwood’s skills as a director are apparent in how the actual bombing sequence is staged and assembled, but his shortcomings as a nearly 90-year-old storyteller drag the overall telling. The dramatic pace lacks urgency and its presentation is, at best, workmanlike. The filmmaking is professionally rendered but it lacks a passionate conviction.”
- Jimmy Kinkaid: “…there is a lot to recommend about the movie. Paul Walter Hauser is perfectly cast as the title character. He brings a bit of the characters he played in I, Tonya and BlacKkKlansman to the part, but he also captures Jewell’s essential kindness as well.”
- Matthew Liedke (3.75/5): “It’s mostly well crafted, though, and very well acted. Some of its broader story elements cause it to stumble a bit, though, and there is a sort of one-dimensional feeling.”
- Nathaniel Muir: “…had so much potential. It is a demoralizing story that can deliver a poignant message in today’s clicks happy atmosphere. The film also has a strong cast that work together tremendously. Unfortunately, it takes too many detours that impact the intended meaning. The female characters are decades old archetypes while Eastwood’s version of the media is more about conspiracies than commentary.”
- Physics Overpowered: “…is definitely worth a watch and I recommend it. The political implications are interesting to contempt as it shows something that is still happening today in America but the theme and the moral is right on the money.”
- Robbie’s Movie Reviews (7/10): “It’s got a great heart to it, filled to the brim with the magic of friendship, determination, and what it really means to be a hero. Fantastic film with acting and great use of cinema skills, the movie will certainly be engaging to those that like biographical dramas. It’s true that it needs a little fine tuning in the fact vs dramad epartment and could get a little more exciting and complete, but overall, I was very impressed with what Eastwood put together “
- SATYAMSHOT: “…a true-life story in a hard-hitting manner, and more importantly, humanely of person wronged by over-zealous security system.”
- Scene By Marilyn: “Another good movie directed by Clint Eastwood. Good acting – Rockwell, Houser, Hamm. One thing I found amusing: a conference room filled with FBI’ers that appeared to be at least 40% non-white, one Asian-looking man, and maybe even a couple of women. Like that happened.”
- That Darn Girl (5/5): “As Richard fights back, you will feel pride bloom in your chest. The FBI’s mistakes are sadly laughable as it is disgusting. In a day when sensationalism and clicks determine innocence and guilt, how long until another Richard Jewell is tried by the media?”
- The Pissed Off Printer: “Acting was very good. Sam Rockwell was brilliant. Direction was very good. Story was well paced and it went by pretty fast for the 2 hour length. And they gave Jewell the cutest beagle as his dog.”
- Vague Visages / Peter Bell: “…a captivating recreation of a man’s journey through hell and back. Its strong acting and character relationship dynamics are the main selling points, as Eastwood’s sense of direction and pacing are the best they have been in a long time.”
- Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: “…is a roller coaster ride, at points you think that Richard Jewell has no way out, and that fate is certainly stacked against him, but then he and his lawyer start fighting back, and there is nothing to do but to hope and cheer for him to get on the right side of things.”
Not Recommended (or on the fence)
Most reviews from the 750+ movie sites I’m following are positive for the film.
- Jordan Woodson’s Reviews: “…there are truly no villains in this scenario aside from the true bomber as everyone is actually doing their jobs just like Jewell was. The story of the title character is an important one to tell as he is undoubtedly an American hero and should be praised as such, I just wish it was told in a better movie.”
The comments area awaits what you think of this movie. If you have reviewed it already, please feel free to share where that review is located along with a brief synopsis of your review.