In “The Fall of Richard Jewell”, Clint Eastwood tells of a real US “media process” – with a great ambiguous hero.
How old Clint Eastwood is can be seen not only from the proud 90 he reached on May 31 of this year. It is even more evident in the attitude you take towards him. He is one of the few US cinema icons with conservative views who still show respect, even veneration. That his “Dirty Harry” is not exactly a role model for advanced police methods has not led to “Cancel” calls, just as Eastwood’s support for Mitt Romney and Mike Bloomberg. It’s hard to say what it is, but something about Eastwood inspires left-wing people in particular to think that he is on the “right” side, despite the fact that where the weaker are defended, a man is still a man without having to be toxic, and the loner is quietly riding away into the sunset after helping the community again.
In “Richard Jewell” Eastwood turns to a real, if rather “problematic” hero, as has often been the case in recent years (“Scully”, “American Sniper”, “15:17 to Paris”). Jewell saved hundreds of lives when he found a bomb on the site during the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and raised the alarm just before it exploded. The happiness of being celebrated as a national hero did not last long.
A few days after the assassination attempt, in which two people died and more than one hundred were injured, Jewell himself came under suspicion. An overweight security employee who still lived with his mother, had a large arsenal of weapons, and had noticed earlier security jobs by overzealously pursuing the smallest violations, Jewell became the ideal suspect because he was exactly in the profiler image of the “Lonely bombers” seemed to fit. At first only the FBI saw it that way, but then, after a “leak”, the press too. And so began one of those “media scandals” whose perfidy is that the prosecutors hardly have to prove their suspicions in the headlines.
Paul Walter Hauser embodies this Jewell in one of the big overlooked appearances of the last year of the cinema. From the first scenes, where he imposes himself on a lawyer (Sam Rockwell) with a sense of generosity and generosity as a kind of office caretaker, you see yourself as a spectator set in conflict: You see through your show-off when you see yourself as a “man of the law” but one is also taken with the caring attention with which he replenishes the lawyer’s Snickers supplies. You are a bit repulsed by the naturalness of your Law & Order attitudes, but just as touched by the unconditional love of the elderly mother (Kathy Bates).
As a social outsider, he appears to be too needy and lacking authority, a figure that is disregarded and that is why she believes in everything: Eastwood and his screenwriter Billy Ray would have to do their film just a little differently, and one would be convinced of his guilt right from the start. But this way you can closely monitor how Jewell, despite her best intentions, is suspected. The prejudices that come into effect can be seen on the screen while practically experiencing them yourself.
It’s a pretty fascinating process. The viewer can understand what Jon Hamm, as an FBI investigator, thinks about Jewell’s constant attempts at pandering, but he also sees how hasty the conclusions he draws from it. Alternating between the stereotypes of “affable fat” and the sociopathic “creep”, Hauser gives his figure a complexity and ambiguity that rarely occurs in a role that is usually pushed into the second row.
That is the rewarding part of “Richard Jewell”. And then there is also an annoying one, which unfortunately includes almost all of the supporting roles. Kathy Bates as a “simple” woman, who is hard on the press hate, is masterful in her minimalism, but Sam Rockwell as a hardened lawyer who brings his friend and client to life with “tough love” and Jon Hamm as unscrupulous FBI agent – they all come together like clichés from films from the 1950s.
Things get really bad with Olivia Wilde, who embodies a journalist who “sleeps” on the FBI’s tip and then starts hunting for Jewell with her article. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where Wilde’s real role model, the late Kathy Scruggs, worked, tried to get a disclaimer from Eastwood for the release of “Richard Jewell” in the US and aroused controversy against the factual representation, that reporters bought information with sex.
The debate about it almost scratched Eastwood’s reputation, but essentially it hit the film which was just a disappointing result at the box office.