Richard Jewell Movie Review

Clint Eastwood’s Richard Jewell continues his late career spate of no-frills dramas focused on recent events. This is a mostly successful and effective one which recounts the title character’s accusations of being responsible for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park Bombing in Atlanta. Eastwood and screenwriter Billy Ray spare no anger (sometimes subtle, sometimes above the surface) at the U.S. Government and the media for their contribution to his suffering. That is where Jewell has generated some controversy due its depiction of one reporter played by Olivia Wilde. Some of that material is indeed problematic, but the film overall is buoyed by a trio of terrific performances.

One of them is Paul Walter Hauser as Jewell. Working as a low-level security guard with deep reverence for law enforcement (he longs to be in that club), Jewell works the event that results in pipe bombs being detonated and he saves lives by discovering the knapsack that the devices are kept in. However, he also becomes the tragedy’s prime suspect. His two biggest investigators depicted here are Jon Hamm’s FBI agent and Wilde’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter. Richard’s support system include his lawyer Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell) and his beloved mama Bobi (Kathy Bates).

Jewell’s credit as a hero is short-lived as the government and media hone in on him as the potential bomber. Hauser’s performance (he’s been memorable in smaller roles in I, Tonya and BlacKkKlansman) is first-rate as he captures Jewell’s vulnerability and unwillingness to fight the system until it’s almost too late. Credit also goes to Rockwell and Bates. The scenes between this trio give the picture its greatest dramatic heft.

As mentioned, the treatment of Wilde and the FBI as a whole is a bit more complicated. Their story here has been called more fictionalized than the reality. I can only say that Wilde’s reporter in particular is written as more of a caricature. Yet the unfair treatment of Jewell is one that resonates with Hauser’s superb work assisting in a major way.

*** (out of four)

Oscars 2019: The Case of Adam Driver

My Case of posts for the acting contenders at this year’s Oscar brings us to the third performer in Best Actor… Adam Driver in Marriage Story. Here’s his story:

The Case for Adam Driver

2019 capped off an amazing decade for Driver. In addition to his high-profile role in the HBO series Girls, his filmography over the past few years has been remarkable. To give you an idea, here’s some of the directors he worked with in the 2010s: Clint Eastwood, the Coen Brothers, Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, Steven Soderbergh, Jim Jarmusch, Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, Rian Johnson, Terry Gilliam, and Spike Lee. The latter filmmaker helped Driver get his first Oscar nod last year in Supporting Actor for BlacKkKlansman. 2019 saw his best year yet with his final portrayal as Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and critical praise for the political drama The Report. Yet it’s his role as the divorcing husband to Scarlett Johansson in frequent collaborator Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story that garnered his greatest reviews thus far.

The Case Against Adam Driver

He’s still young enough that there’s little overdue for a win sentiment happening. Marriage Story has fallen behind in numerous categories with the exception of Laura Dern in Supporting Actress. Joaquin Phoenix has swept the key precursors.

The Verdict

Driver will likely place second in the voting behind the rising of Phoenix over the past few weeks.

My Case of posts will continue with the third competitor in Best Actress… Saoirse Ronan in Little Women!

Richard Jewell Box Office Prediction

Clint Eastwood continues to churn out film after film and his latest, Richard Jewell, keeps with his recent theme of fact based dramas recounting events of the past quarter century. Paul Walter Hauser (memorable in supporting roles in I, Tonya and BlacKkKlansman) stars in the title role of the security guard falsely accused of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing. Costars include Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, Jon Hamm, and Olivia Wilde.

Jewell looks to bring in an adult audience amidst Christmas fare geared towards family crowds. With Eastwood at the helm, it could succeed. The director’s previous work, The Mule, debuted over the same mid December weekend last year to $17.5 million. Critics are mostly on his side here with a current Rotten Tomatoes score of 88% and some awards chatter.

That said, I don’t believe Jewell will nab Mule numbers right away (it helped that Eastwood starred in the latter). This will hope to leg out as many grownup dramas do over subsequent holiday weekends. For its start, I believe low double digits to possibly low teens sounds about right.

Richard Jewell opening weekend prediction: $11 million

For my Jumanji: The Next Level prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/04/jumanji-the-next-level-box-office-prediction/

For my Black Christmas prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/05/black-christmas-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Richard Jewell

Few directors have made two Best Picture Oscar winners, but Clint Eastwood did that with 1992’s Unforgiven and 2004’s Million Dollar Baby. The latter came along late in the year and shifted the conversation 15 years ago. So anytime Mr. Eastwood screens a potential contender in time for Academy consideration, it’s time to take notice. The AFI Film Festival premiered Richard Jewell last night and the biographical drama centers on the title character who was falsely accused of the 1996 Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta.

So what’s the verdict? Jewell is sporting an 89% Rotten Tomatoes score thus far, but critical reaction brings a question mark as to its viability. While some reviews indicate it could very well contend, others are a little more mixed.

Eastwood filmed his last nominee five years back with the massive hit American Sniper. Since then, his filmography of Sully, The 15:17 to Paris, and The Mule has garnered scant awards attention (save for a Sound Editing nod for Sully).

Chatter has focused on three performances. Paul Walter Hauser, memorable in supporting roles in I, Tonya and BlacKkKlansman, is garnering raves. Yet Best Actor is fiercely competitive in 2019. In my weekly predictions, he hasn’t been in the top ten as I’ve waited for reaction to come. I honestly feel all ten of my current possibilities could get in. Hauser will really need to gather momentum for any shot. It’s doable, but I feel it would be more doable in a different year.

The same can be said for Sam Rockwell as Jewell’s lawyer. Two years ago, the actor won Supporting Actor for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Last year, he was nominated again as George W. Bush in Vice. It would be a quite a story for him to get nods three years in a row. Like Hauser’s category, Supporting Actor is also chock full of contenders. I’m a bit skeptical he makes it as he might also split his own votes for his work in Jojo Rabbit. 

It could be Kathy Bates that manages to get in playing Jewell’s mother. That’s because Supporting Actress is not quite as packed as the races of her costars. Nearly three decades have passed since she won Best Actress for Misery. Bates has received two Supporting Actress recognitions since in 1998’s Primary Colors and 2002’s About Schmidt. 

So… how about the film itself and Eastwood? It’s certainly feasible that it nabs a Picture nomination, but it’s definitely an on the bubble candidate. Due to that, I’m not sure Eastwood can make the final five. He’ll just have to rest on his already considerable mantelpiece.

Bottom line: Richard Jewell put itself in the mix at AFI, but there’s also a chance it comes up empty handed. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

A Jewell Enters The Oscar Fray

Clint Eastwood works quickly and it’s become an almost common occurrence that his efforts pop up early in the fall for a late year release. That’s precisely what happened today with Richard Jewell, the filmmaker’s chronicle of the man falsely accused in the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing.

The movie is set for a December 13 release. Anytime Eastwood has something out at this time of year, you can bet awards pundits will take notice. A project long in development, Jewell was originally set to star Jonah Hill as the title character and Leonardo DiCaprio as the lawyer defending him (they still serve as producers). Now it’s Paul Walter Hauser (memorable in supporting roles in I, Tonya and BlacKkKlansman) and Sam Rockwell headlining with Kathy Bates, Olivia Wilde, and Jon Hamm included among the cast.

For now, it’s uncertain which races Hauser and Rockwell will be campaigned for. Both are likely to be included as possibilities in my weekly predictions next week (and probably Bates in Supporting Actress).

Eastwood has a mixed record with these “surprise” Christmastime outings. Fifteen years ago, Million Dollar Baby came out of nowhere to win Picture, Director, Actress (Hilary Swank), and Supporting Actor (Morgan Freeman). Yet just last year, The Mule failed to gain any traction with voters. Bottom line: we shall see how it plays out, but Clint and company are at least back in the mix. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Marriage Story

One of the most eagerly awaited Oscar contenders premiered today at the Venice Film Festival and it seems to have only elevated its status. Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story is receiving rave reviews as it explores the dissolution of the union between Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver’s characters. It currently stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Baumbach’s sole Academy nod came for his Original Screenplay for The Squid and the Whale in 2005. A second recognition in that race seems assured. The auteur, who based the script on his own divorce from actress Jennifer Jason Leigh, also stands an excellent shot at his first directing nomination and the picture itself is likely to make the cut among the 5-10 nominees in the biggest race of all.

As for the performers, Marriage is the rare film that could see nods in all four acting categories. Johansson has remarkably never the beneficiary of an Academy nomination, despite four Golden Globe calls for her work. Expect that to change in what’s being called a career best. Driver appears in line for his second Oscar nod in a row after last year’s supporting turn in BlacKkKlansman. In the supporting races, look for Laura Dern in Supporting Actress. As for Supporting Actor, both Ray Liotta and Alan Alda are possibilities and it will be interesting to see which one of them grabs momentum.

Bottom line: look for this Marriage to be a storyline throughout awards season. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Early 2019 Oscar Predictions: Best Picture

We’ve arrived at the biggest contest of all in my inaugural Oscar predictions for 2019 – Best Picture! If you missed my first takes on director and the acting categories, you can read them right here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/26/early-2019-oscar-predictions-best-director/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/25/early-2019-oscar-predictions-best-actor/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/25/early-2019-oscar-predictions-best-actress/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/24/early-2019-oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actor/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/08/24/early-2019-oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actress/

As a reminder, Picture is the only race where the number of nominees can fluctuate anywhere from 5 to 10. In recent years, the magic number is normally 9. However, there were 8 movies up in 2018. My initial late August projections last year yielded three of the eventual 8: BlacKkKlansman, A Star Is Born, and Roma. Three other flicks nominated were mentioned in my other possibilities: Black Panther, The Favourite, and Vice. Interestingly, eventual winner Green Book wasn’t quite on my radar screen at that time.

I’ll go with nine for the time being. The multitude of film festivals starting Thursday and over the coming weeks will shape all races tremendously. My first ranked predictions in the top 6 categories will start this Thursday and be updated weekly.

Let’s get to it!

EARLY OSCAR PREDICTIONS: BEST PICTURE

1917

Bombshell

The Farewell

The Irishman

Little Women

Marriage Story

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Parasite

The Report

Other Possibilities:

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Ad Astra

A Hidden Life

Avengers: Endgame

Dark Waters

Ford v Ferrari

The Goldfinch

Harriet

Jojo Rabbit

Joker

Just Mercy

The Laundromat

The Lighthouse

Pain and Glory

Rocketman

The Two Popes

And there you have it! Expect a whole bunch of Oscar Watch posts stemming from Toronto, Telluride, Venice, and New York in the near future…