The Big Lie of ‘Richard Jewell’ (Column)

Variety | 12/15/2019 | Owen Gleiberman
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For a man who was so enraged at the administration of Barack Obama that he spent his 2012 Republican Convention speech lecturing an empty chair, Clint Eastwood has made a number of conventional, level-headed — one might even say liberal — political dramas. Films like “Invictus” and “J. Edgar” and “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” But “Richard Jewell” isn’t one of those. It’s a movie by Clint the chair ranter.

Not that it looks like one. In “Richard Jewell,” Eastwood works in his standard mode of polished no-fuss classicism, and he takes a becalmed, just-the-facts-ma’am approach to telling the story of Richard Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser), the sad-sack security guard who discovered a pipe bomb at Centennial Olympic Park during the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and, just days after being celebrated for his heroism, became the chief suspect in the case.

Richard - Jewell - Saga - Richard - Jewell

If you want to know what happened in the Richard Jewell saga, you could do worse than watch “Richard Jewell.” You could also do better, since the film tells two lies. One of them is factual: the suggestion that Kathy Scruggs, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter played by Olivia Wilde, slept with her source — in the film, an FBI agent named Tom Shaw (Jon Hamm), who is actually a composite character. The sexual liaison between them is treated as her half of a quid pro quo; in return, Shaw passes on the tip that Jewell is the suspect the FBI is investigating. Scruggs writes a story saying just that, which turns Jewell (and the implication of his guilt) into a global news event.

But according to various sources, including Kevin Riley, the current editor-in-chief of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, there’s no truth to the notion that Kathy Scruggs ever slept with a source. She was, as described in a report...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Variety
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