Although I don’t often make movie recommendations — except to a handful of friends and relatives — I have a real jewel, or gem, for you: “Richard Jewell.”
Paul Walter Hauser — why actors need all three names is beyond me — plays the role of Jewell and seems perfect for it.
For those of you unfamiliar with this movie, Jewell was the security guard working at Centennial Park in July 1996, when the Summer Olympics were to be held in Atlanta. He saw what he believed could be a bomb in a backpack under a bench.
He began clearing the area before the bomb detonated, and probably saved hundreds of lives. Two people were killed, and a hundred injured.
Eastwood’s 2019 movie was based on “American Nightmare: The Ballad of Richard Jewell,” which appeared in Vanity Fair.
Who planted the bomb? Law enforcement, including the FBI, starts with suspecting the guy they think called in the threat: “There’s a bomb in Centennial Park. You have 30 minutes.”
It’s a similar theory that law enforcement uses when a spouse is killed: Start with the surviving spouse.
Poor Richard, who lives with his mother — wonderfully portrayed by Kathy Bates, who’s no longer whacking James Caan’s limbs — becomes scrutinized after front-page headlines in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
As it turns out, thinking that Jewell could be responsible was a good first step, but leaking that to the media was totally wrong.
The female reporter who “breaks” the story and the resultant media surge at Jewell’s residence and anywhere he goes are probably what you’d expect. Being part of the media for four decades, though, I am offended and think of those men and women more like sharks smelling blood in the water.
“Did you do it?” they ask. Whenever I hear that — in a movie, on “Dateline” or “48 Hours” — I want to make the person’s reply: “Yup, you got me. The cops never asked, but I’ll tell you.”
Fortunately for Jewell, who passed away at age 44 in 2007, he enlists the services of an attorney who battles with him every step of the way, even sitting with him in his home when the FBI loads up almost everything in the house, including his mother’s Tupperware, to be gone over with a fine-tooth comb.
Eventually — three months later — Jewell is exonerated.
Of course, legendary Clint Eastwood produced and directed “Richard Jewell,” and anything old Dirty Harry has his hands on has got to be gold.
In a trailer for the movie, Eastwood says what happened to Jewell was “a great American screw-over.” You’ll feel sorry for him as the movie’s plot develops, but I won’t spoil it for you, only urging you to spend a few bucks and enjoy it.
Digging deeper, I saw that some in the media called for a boycott over “allegations” about the female who broke the story. She, like Jewell, wasn’t around to defend her character, having passed away at age 42 in 2001.
She was heavily defended by former co-workers at the AJC when the movie was released.