Jan 21, 2020
It’s Takeover Tuesday, and we’re welcoming back Jon-David, aka Mafia Hairdresser, who will be looking at Clint Eastwood’s latest film, RICHARD JEWELL, which has earned Kathy Bates multiple awards nominations. It’s a challenging film, tackling a disturbing case of “trial by media” in the wake of the 1996 Summer Olympics bombing in Atlanta, Georgia. Jon-David will be up in just a bit to give us his views, right after a promo for his serial audio drama, The Mafia Hairdresser Chronicles, based on his experience cutting hair for cocaine dealers in the 1980s. Yes, really.
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Here we go!
<< MAFIA HAIRDRESSER PROMO >>
Hello, this Jon-David aka Mafia Hairdresser, the writer and performer of the podcast The Mafia Hairdresser Chronicles, a campy crime comedy fairytale based on my time working for a Hollywood cocaine trafficking couple in the 80s. But, enough about me.
Today I have the honor of reviewing RICHARD JEWELL (2019), a film written for the screen by Billy Ray and Maria Brenner, who also wrote the original Vanity Fair article "American Nightmare: The Ballad of Richard Jewell", one of the sources this film is based on. The film was directed by Clint Eastwood, and stars Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, and Jon Hamm.
This film is about historical events so this review will contain a few spoilers if you didn’t know about those events.
RICHARD JEWELL is the true story about a man, a security guard, wrongly accused of setting off a bomb at an Olympic event in Centennial Park, Atlanta, Georgia in 1996. I remember the story and the pictures. But I don’t remember Richard Jewell, the security guard, who found the bomb before it exploded, which helped save many lives. Now, in 1984, I lived in Los Angeles, so I remembered a security guard at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, he had planted a bomb on a bus so that he could discover it later and be a hero. Well, because of the earlier ‘84 incident, in 1996, in the mind of the public and the FBI, Richard Jewell became a suspect as the bomber, and then the main suspect once investigators did more digging into Richard Jewell’s past. The press, as well as the FBI and the public, put Richard and his mother through hell. I do remember the story going on and on for years until they actually found the bomber, six years later.
In many of Clint Eastwood’s films, such as GRAN TORINO and THE MULE, his main characters and heroes are, not only three-dimensional and flawed, they are also the type of person the viewer might, in some point in the movie, just say, “Hey, if he loses, or, if he goes down, it wouldn’t be that big a tragedy.” In RICHARD JEWELL, the main character practically lives the life of the type of guy who might and would, indeed, be able to make and then plant a bomb only to find it to look like a hero by saving lives before it detonates. He didn’t do it, but, hey, would society lose a model citizen if this type of guy were wrongly convicted? Hmmm.
In this film, the FBI who profiles Richard as the main suspect is, almost, wholly entirely, represented through Jon Hamm’s character, Agent Tom Shaw. Agent Shaw decides Richard Jewell fits the bomber profile because Richard Jewell is a white male who loves guns and law enforcement and lives with his mother. Not only did Richard Jewell fit a profile, he had been an over-zealous man in uniform who had always wanted to be seen as the best law enforcer, even if he did not have a badge.
This film stays tight on Richard Jewell, heartwarmingly played by actor, Paul Walter Hauser. You’ve seen Paul play a shlubby baddy in I TONYA (Episode #154), a shlubby plucky writer in LATE NIGHT (Episode #545), and a chubby white guy shoved around in BLACKKKLANSMAN (Episode #225). But Paul Walter Hauser’s portrayal of Richard Jewell never lets the viewer fully throw him under the bus, no matter how much of what comes out of his mouth seems to give the FBI more evidence to convict him. Nor does his portrayal let you give him a pass for being a delusional man who thinks, one day, he’ll actually be a law enforcement official again, rather than a security guard at a public park.
Of course, this film educates us and illuminates a horrific terroristic tragedy, the 1996 Centennial Park Bombing. This is a film about the fact that we can all be delusional. It has real depth. Richard lives his delusions that he was born to be a law enforcer, saving the world. The FBI agent believes what is in front of him, that Richard must be the bomber because the FBI profile must be correct, not only because of the professional and public pressure put on him, but because of his own law enforcement ego. The reporter who breaks the story that Richard is the main suspect is played by Olivia Wilde, and she must believe she is just doing her job, performing a public service tofurther her career.Sam Rockwell's lawyer character, Watson Bryant, must take on Richard Jewell’s case because he needs to. He’s run his career into the ground because he wouldn’t play bureaucratic lawyer games to be successful. It’s them, not him. Every character on the screen in this film: delusional.
It is Kathy Bates who plays Richard's mother, by the way, nominated for a Golden Globe for supporting actress for this role, who, I’m paraphrasing here, says to Richard, “This is the life you were dealt, deal with it.” This is a film about an important event that had an impact on a lot of people, but we could all be Richard Jewell.
I enjoyed this film. It’s pace and tone, the direction. Not preachy nor sensational. And, no matter what you read or hear about the controversies about this film, it is, a very good film and there are composite characters and depictions. If you want to know more about the true events, there are good books to read about it.
Rotten Tomatoes: 74%
One Movie Punch: 8.0/10
It’s not a Best Picture film because of its soft touch. It’s not a big-big film, but it has an Oscar worthy performance by Paul Walter Hauser, compelling direction, and it’s a story well told.
RICHARD JEWELL (2019) leaves theaters early 2020.
This is Jon-David from the podcast, The Mafia Hairdresser Chronicles, and I hope, if you have not seen RICHARD JEWELL in theaters, to view it streaming now on Amazon.