Clint Eastwood, the king of boomer entertainment is back at it again with second servings, after his magnificently obscure and strangely endearing The Mule. With his latest film Richard Jewell, Eastwood returns to his non-fiction routes, and plays with the real-life story of American security guard Richard Jewell, a man who was put under suspicion by the Federal Bureau of Investigations after heroically saving thousands of lives at Centennial Park during the 1996 Olympic games. Everybody knew that this film was going to be the textbook definition of Oscar bait just by it’s summary alone. It appeals to a largely white demographic, without crossing many barriers between conservative and liberal ideologies. However, this isn’t to say that Richard Jewell is a terrible film either.
For any viewer who watched the pulse-pounding trailer, Richard Jewell delivers on what you would expect from a based on a true story flick of this caliber. Flashy performances, a timely true story, a laughable dream sequence, and a mediocre script that manages to make due with it’s over the top narrative threads and resolutions. In the case of Olivia Wilde’s role as Kathy Scruggs, her character’s arc isn’t fully redeemed. From one moment, she’s the antagonist of Jewell’s story; a perpetrator of creating vague media claims meant to target a poor man’s career and livelihood. In the other, she’s sympathetic towards Jewell’s media treatment, after learning about an underwhelming reveal that completely unrealistically shifts her already biased perspective.
There’s multiple moments of character inconsistencies and reveals that diminishes the film’s goal for authenticity. Yet at the end of the day, what Eastwood wanted to create was a piece of informative entertainment. Richard Jewell isn’t a film meant to rival some of this year’s most thought-provoking pieces of cinema. It’s a film meant to specifically pander to an elder generation, who don’t want to waste their money on a film that isn’t safe. To put it simply, the film is bland, dry, though consistently educational.
In all fairness, regardless of it’s overly simplified politics and flat direction, Richard Jewell is an insightful tragic recreation of history. Paul Walter Hauser is a delight to see on screen, though Kathy Bates truly steals the show, as she portrays the role of Bobi Jewell; a mother stuck in between an immense crossfire of an anarchic media frenzy. Richard Jewell is far from being the most egregiously offensive film currently screening in theaters. Though it should be noted, that there’s plenty of other original voices worth supporting first, before giving Eastwood another bang for his buck to produce another carbon copy of the exact same film with a different historical backdrop again.
Richard Jewell opens in cinemas nationwide on December 13th