Richard Jewell: The Smear Campaign Is Happening All Over Again
Well folks… I saw Richard Jewell last night. And I must say, I liked it a lot. It’s safe to say that it’s probably the best Clint Eastwood movie in about a decade. It has great directing, fantastic acting (especially from Paul Walter Hauser, Kathy Bates and Sam Rockwell) and most of all it’s exciting and thrilling to watch.
With Paul Walter Hauser in the title role, Richard Jewell tells the story of well… Richard Jewell. A wanna-be police officer turned security guard. He discovered a suspicious package in a crowded concert field (during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta), and by alerting the authorities of his discovery he managed to save sooooo many lives. He was lauded as a hero, but after the smear campaign from the media and from the FBI, he was quickly turned into a suspect- never arrested and charged by anyone. He was an innocent victim of the media (and the FBI) for in a matter of months became his judge, jury and executioner.
His name was eventually cleared but the damage was already done.
Well, after seeing Richard Jewell, I can safely say that it’s happening all over again. Not the smear campaign against him, but against Kathy Scruggs- the beat reporter that wrote on the subject. Played by Olivia Wilde, Scruggs was vital person in the case against Richard Jewell, as she reported on him for months and months, and thus helped the media (and with that the public) form a different opinion of him. Or did she? I think that Clint and pretty much everyone else involved in this movie owe Kathy’s family a huge apology, because there’s a second smear campaign. It’s done against Kathy Scruggs and it’s done here in Richard Jewel –the Oscar nominated movie.
Yes, I’m aware that Richard Jewel was an innocent man, but here in this movie, he’s portrayed as the hero (wrongfully accused one of that), and she’s basically the cold blooded villain that toys with one man’s life. Seriously. Thanks to the screenwriter Billy Ray and the god-awful acting from Olivia Wilde, she’s a sad caricature, and not a respected journalist as she actually was. She never even revealed her sources to the public. EVER! Like a true god damn professional! But now, thanks to Clint and his team, she’s a joke and her journalistic efforts have been turned into a real mockery.
But the thing is… Richard Jewell, tells the story of the titular character through the point of view of that titular character, and everyone else is a compressed generalization (the legal team, and the FBI team) or reduced to a supporting misrepresented character – like Kathy Scruggs. The events, the trials and tribulations of his ordeal are told through the Richard Jewell perspective, and Kathy’s story is a greatly mistreated and fabricated to fit that narrative. How? Well, Kathy is portrayed a vicious bitch, a ruthless and very unprofessional reporter and the movie even suggests that she traded tips for sex. Which is apparently not true. While Richard Jewell is portrayed very sympathetically, Kathy is turned into a comically grotesque villain that destroys lives for the hell of it. Come on!
I would highly suggest that some especially gifted director in Hollywood make a separate biopic just for her, so maybe Kathy’s name is cleared once and for all. Like Richard, she also died young (at the age of 42), and apparently never fully dealt with the aftermath of the events. She battled depression and drug addiction, and eventually died of an overdose. Plenty of her friends and colleagues came out to defend her and her reporting on the events (before the movie’s release) but it was all in vain. Aside from mentioning that some events were changed for dramatic purposes, there was nothing in Richard Jewell that would suggest that Clint could go easy on her. Olivia Wilde tried to do some damage control on her Twitter account but frankly she made things worse, and we’ll just have to accept the fact that the world will never know the truth about Kathy Scruggs.