‘Richard Jewell’ Fits the Profile of a Classic Clint Eastwood Biopic

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CREDIT: Claire Folger/Warner Bros.

Starring: Paul Walter Hauser, Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, Jon Hamm, Olivia Wilde, Nina Arianda, Ian Gomez

Director: Clint Eastwood

Running Time: 129 Minutes

Rating: R for Some Language (Including Innuendo) and a Bloody Crime Scene

Release Date: December 13, 2019

The real life stories that Clint Eastwood chooses for his films make me think he wants to say something grand about society at large. But then he tells them in such a way that makes it clear that he is just talking about this one particular story, especially in the case of Richard Jewell. (That statement comes with the caveat that there are several moments that viewers can extrapolate to draw their own broader conclusions.) During the 1996 Summer Olympics, the title fellow discovered a backpack packed with a bomb while working security at a concert at Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park. After alerting authorities and helping spectators clear the area, he was initially hailed as a hero in the media. But then the FBI leaked information to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution indicating that Jewell was considered a suspect, leading to him being constantly hounded by an invasive investigation and a phalanx of relentless reporters outside his home.

Jewell fits the profile of a particular type of lone bomber terrorist: white, male, former military or law enforcement, or wannabe law enforcement, and presumably with a hero complex fantasy wherein he plants a deadly weapon so that he can save people by “discovering” it. Paul Walter Hauser plays Jewell with a confidence and sureness of himself that keeps underlining how much he fits that profile. He has a cache of hunting weapons, a hollowed-out grenade from a military surplus store that he uses as a paperweight, and a deep knowledge of terrorism and anti-terrorism techniques that he is perfectly happy to regale his friends and family with. He’s a bit naive, but not so naive that he doesn’t recognize when public opinion has wildly swung against him. He may not be the culprit, but that by no means absolves all people like him. The message of this one movie is that in this one case, this one guy who fits the profile isn’t guilty.

So when considered as just one particular story that doesn’t deign to have broader implications, Richard Jewell is a riveting tale of someone who was forced to stand up for himself in a way he never thought he would need to. The most crucial scene happens when his lawyer (a nimble and righteously angry Sam Rockwell) exhorts him to stop being so meek and get upset. Hauser lets down his armor and reveals that he could hardly be any angrier, but that doesn’t mean he can change who he fundamentally is as a person. And that is someone who has always believed in the virtue of respecting authority and is now coming to grips with how that authority can be weaponized against the wrong person. Richard Jewell is just one guy, and this one big thing just happened to happen to him. Somehow he survived, and Clint Eastwood was happy to let us know how.

Richard Jewell is Recommended If You Like: The Mule, Classic Olympics highlights, Vintage news clips

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Suspicious Backpacks

This Is a Movie Review: Stan & Ollie

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CREDIT: Sony Pictures Classics

This post was originally published on News Cult in December 2018.

Starring: Steve Coogan, John C. Reilly, Shirley Henderson, Nina Arianda, Danny Huston

Director: Jon S. Baird

Running Time: 97 Minutes

Rating: PG for A Few Adult Arguments

Release Date: December 28, 2018 (Limited)

If you’ve ever thought that Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly should team up to play legendary screen duo Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, then you must be their biggest fans or their close friends. Stan & Ollie very much feels like a passion project, and it also has the vibe of a secret present, because who in 2018 would have ever thought to ask if anyone wanted to make this movie? Coogan and Reilly have their subjects’ signature gestures down pat, and various real life scenes play out with a charming blend of misanthropic physical comedy in the vein of heavy luggage sliding down a staircase. The year is 1953, and Laurel and Hardy’s cinematic glory days are well over and never to re-emerge, though Stan is hard at work writing a screenplay about Robin Hood and incessantly tracking down a producer. But to actually make some dough and earn some new laughs, they head out on a tour of live shows in Britain and Ireland.

The primary, low-key charm of Stan & Ollie is the culmination of two longtime companions realizing the depth of their connection. The pressures of the road lead to simmering resentments being aired out, but those blowouts clear the way for these two to reaffirm that they are more than just partners but are in fact true and loyal friends who might as well put on one more show for as long it can last. Their relationship is mirrored by that between their wives, who are often at odds with each other as they stand firmly in their husbands’ corners. It is the third marriage for both of them, but it appears that the third time’s the charm. Stan’s wife Ida (Nina Arianda) is a bit of brassy steamroller, while Ollie’s wife Lucille (Shirley Henderson) is mousy but just as formidable. There is one especially heartwarming moment in the middle of a show when Ollie’s health troubles look like they will incapacitate him, but he looks at Stan for support and they are able to carry on; meanwhile in the audience, Ida and Lucille become a unified front as they lock hands. That is the sort of unity of spirit you hope to find in any major personal endeavor.

Stan & Ollie is Recommended If You Like: The real Laurel and Hardy presumably, Low-key showbiz biopics

Grade: 3 out of 5 Top Hats