Critics Call Out Eastwood's 'Misstep' in Richard Jewell

The film about a hatchet job is one itself, writes Jake Coyle
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 13, 2019 12:19 PM CST

Clint Eastwood's Richard Jewell is touted as "a story of what happens when what is reported as fact obscures the truth." With its release Friday, critics have joined the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in pointing out that the film telling how the government and media painted a hero as a suspect in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing isn't as truthful as viewers might assume. Four takes on the film, which has a 76% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes:

  • It's a captivating film but for the "wanton and unfounded depiction" of late AJC reporter Kathy Scruggs, writes AP critic Jake Coyle. "The portrait of Jewell is remarkably nuanced," while "the venom reserved specifically for Scruggs is mystifying." She's depicted as sleeping with an FBI agent for a scoop—"a glaring and offensive invention that perpetuates a false and misogynistic view of female journalists … in a film that otherwise strives for accuracy," Coyle writes. Indeed, it's "just what it preaches against: a hatchet job."
  • Peter Howell acknowledges the "misstep" in regards to Scruggs, but argues the film otherwise "remains substantially faithful to the facts." "Eastwood knows what he's doing here, and he does it well, especially with the casting," Howell writes at the Toronto Star. Paul Walter Hauser as Jewell, Kathy Bates as his mom, and Sam Rockwell as his lawyer, are all "excellent," breathing "life and empathy into characters who could easily have been caricatures."

  • Hauser (I, Tonya) is "absolutely superb," playing his role "with a nuance and commitment that makes it seem like he was born for the part," writes Michael O'Sullivan at the Washington Post. Still, the critic gives the "handsomely made film" just 2.5 stars out of 4. "There's plenty of room for outrage over suspicions that fell on an innocent man, without resorting to demonizing reporters and law enforcement officers as caricatures of corruption," he writes.
  • Yet Glenn Kenny seems to easily forgive that offence. "As much as Eastwood finds to condemn in the movie's designated villains, he does not deliver any comeuppances to them in the end. Which is merciful in the context of fiction," he writes at And "the ace that Eastwood has in the hole is that whatever you think, what happened to Richard Jewell happened," he adds, giving the film 3.5 stars out of 4.
(More movie review stories.)

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