In I, Tonya, there was a dude who stole a few scenes of the film as this really inept criminal. There was something about him. More than just ineptitude, but some depth lurking. The next year came BlacKkKlansman, and there he was again. Slightly bigger role. Same wheelhouse. Same hint at layers. Fast forward another year, and I spot him in a trailer, and he’s made a lead role out of this niche of his. The film is Richard Jewell and that actor is Paul Walter Hauser.
As you may know Richard Jewell was a security guard in Atlanta around the 1996 Olympics, and he discovered a bomb that was placed in the crowd. Because of his actions, the casualties were greatly reduced and many lives were saved. Unfortunately, he also fit the bomber profile all too well, and he became the target of the FBI investigation. This film follows him through that journey.
While the film was starting, I began to get very uncomfortable and anxious. This film was going to be very loaded, diving into some charged topics. The attacks against Jewell’s name were perpetrated by law enforcement and the media, so I didn’t know what the messaging around that was going to be. What was this film trying to say? Would it be something I wanted to hear? I calmed myself by focusing on the performances because ultimately, this is an actors’ film.
Sam Rockwell plays Jewell’s attorney. I’ve long loved him, but it’s been a while since we’ve seen him play a nice guy. I enjoyed every second he was on screen, but the true treasure was Kathy Bates as Jewell’s mom. She gave possibly the strongest performance in a film full of strong performances, and she reminded us that she’s still here and she’s still amazing.
And what of the man himself? He could more than hold his own against those Oscar winners. He took that niche he carved out and transformed it into a leading role, and he was more than capable of carrying the film. When a film is in Awards talk, I like for performances to have that moment or that scene that you could point to and say THAT’s where they won it. He had two or three of those moments.
My biggest gripe was that I did not like Olivia Wilde’s journalist character at all. Not just in the sense of she’s the villain so we don’t like her, but I cringed every time she was on screen. She actively made the film worse, by some combination of the writing and performance. We didn’t like Jon Hamm’s FBI character, but I still enjoyed watching him. His motivations and actions made sense. Hers were enough to pull me out of the film. But otherwise, a really strong an compelling film
Richard Jewell – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n