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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Richard Jewell is Clint Eastwood's expertly directed drama based on the true story of the man who discovered a bomb at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Richard Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser) saved countless lives but was wrongly pegged as the prime suspect. Expect strong violence, particularly the bombing, which leads to pools of blood, bloody wounds, and other gore. Guns are shown, with some shooting. Language is also mature, with uses of "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," and more. Characters kiss, and there are a few sexual references and some flirting, as well as a sexy pinup picture in a dorm room. Teens drink in more than one scene, characters drink in bars and social situations, and a supporting character smokes.
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What's the story?
In RICHARD JEWELL, it's 1996, and Richard Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser) lives with his mother (Kathy Bates) and dreams of becoming a police officer. Meanwhile, he works as a security guard in Atlanta during the Summer Olympics. At a concert in Centennial Olympic Park, Jewell spots an unattended backpack and acts fast, clearing the scene before the pipe bomb inside explodes. He's a hero, but an FBI investigator (Jon Hamm) believes that Richard fits a certain profile and is also the most likely suspect. Worse, reporter Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde) learns of the FBI's suspicions and prints the story, turning Jewell into a pariah. A distraught Jewell calls a lawyer he once befriended, Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell), and the fight is on to clear Jewell's good name.
Is it any good?
Director Clint Eastwood is a master of deceptively simple, sturdy filmmaking, and this fact-based drama is no exception, though the performances are the real key to its success. Bearing a strong similarity to Eastwood's excellent Sully (2016), Richard Jewell is also about a heroic act that's tainted by accusation and blame. While Sully was beautifully streamlined and could rely on Tom Hanks' effortless charisma, this movie is a little rougher around the edges. Hauser isn't quite as immediately appealing, but his fine performance sells Jewell's unflagging hope and goodness.
Moreover, casting the cool, charming misfit Rockwell not only as Richard's lawyer but also as his friend helps shine a positive light on the hero. Eastwood also gives space to the movie's antagonists (played by Hamm and Wilde), painting them less as sneering villains out to destroy a man's life than as people who are trying to do their jobs but make a mistake. (The portrayal of Scruggs, who died in 2001, has drawn criticism from those who knew her in real life; they say the movie depicts her methods inaccurately.) A standout Bates and a lovable Nina Arianda round out the cast, and Eastwood's expert craftsmanship brings the movie effectively home. Richard Jewell is an example of clear, masterful storytelling that gets to the heart of complex questions about human nature.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Richard Jewell's violence. How did it make you feel? Does the fact that the bombing is based on a real event make it more shocking or affecting?
Why do you think some people thought Jewell wasn't a hero? Do you think any of that was based on the way he looked or spoke?
Are FBI agent Tom Shaw and reporter Kathy Scruggs intended to be the movie's villains? How accurately do you think they're portrayed? Why might filmmakers choose to alter the facts in a movie based on real life?
Is Richard Jewell a role model? What about Watson Bryant?
- In theaters: December 13, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: March 17, 2020
- Cast: Paul Walter Hauser, Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates
- Director: Clint Eastwood
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 129 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language including some sexual references, and brief bloody images
- Last updated: July 16, 2020
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