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Barbarella says stellar performances make RICHARD JEWELL a real gem

Hi everyone!  Barbarella here to share some thoughts on Director Clint Eastwood’s latest film, RICHARD JEWELL.  Titled after the security guard accused of planting a bomb during the 1996 Olympics, the film owes much to the incredible performances by Paul Walter Houser, Sam Rockwell, and Kathy Bates.   

When Richard Jewell (Paul Walter Houser) finds a bomb in Centennial Park, he briefly becomes a hero before that status devolves into suspect.  Houser physically resembles the real-life Jewell so closely that some of the actual news coverage footage, showing the real Richard Jewell, is used in the film.  But physical resemblance aside, Houser skillfully conveys the Forrest-Gump-like quality of the man who desperately wants to be a police officer and whose overzealousness often gets in the way.

The awkward Jewell befriends Lawyer Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell) years prior to the bomb incident, and must turn to the man for assistance once it hits the fan.  The dynamic between these two create memorable and entertaining moments throughout the more-than-two-hour film.  Rockwell delights me with his performance of the unusual lawyer.  I love basically everything about him in this role, and just his time on screen makes the film a worthwhile cinematic experience. 

Of course, if I’m going to mention amazing performances, I cannot leave out Kathy Bates as Jewell’s mom, who doesn't even attempt to hide her distress under a brave face.  She experiences some gut-wrenching moments, and still conveys that life, even in its worst times, can be funny.  

Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, and Paul Walter Houser in Richard Jewell

While I appreciate both Olivia Wilde and Jon Hamm in the film, I do not find their characters as complex or as interesting as the three previously mentioned.  Oliva Wilde plays Kathy Scruggs, a reporter who would do anything to get the story.  The character falls in line with the usual trope, and nothing excites me about that. Similarly, Jon Hamm plays the FBI investigator who makes up his mind about Richard Jewell before analyzing any of the evidence.  As much as I love Jon Hamm, this character bores me.  I think Billy Ray’s screenplay could have given him a different motivation for his actions that could have both made the character more interesting and given Hamm something more complex with which to work.  

While this cinematic portrayal villainizes both the media and the FBI, it is a story based in fact.  Much of what RICHARD JEWELL portrays matches Marie Brenner’s account in Vanity Fair (  While I recommend reading it, I would suggest waiting until after you’ve seen the film as it has a considerable amount of spoilers.  Still, it’s an interesting companion piece, and she’s credited in the film for having written the article.  

When the 1996 Olympics were underway, I was off galivanting around Europe, so while I’d heard about the bombing, I didn’t pay too much attention to the story or bother to find out much about what had really happened.  This film provides an intriguing look at the events as they unfolded.  I appreciate the information it conveys, not just about what transpired, but of the people behind the events and of the impact those events had on them.  Granted, it is a film and not a historical record, so who’s to say how accurate it is?  Regardless of whether or not it’s accurate, it’s still highly entertaining.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  

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