The Richard Jewell case: Clint Eastwood signs a fable à la Capra [Critique]

Inspired by a true story, this thriller by Clint Eastwood arrives unencrypted on Sunday on France 2. Première advises you.

On July 27, 1996, a homemade bomb exploded at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, which hosted the Summer Olympics that year. Clint Eastwood’s film does not recount the preparation for the attack or the journey of the terrorist (an anti-abortion activist who will only be arrested seven years later). The filmmaker is interested in the security guard, Richard Jewell, who, the evening of the explosion, found a bag full of explosives under a bench, triggered the alert and avoided the worst. The anonymous hero became a media star, but he unleashed the paranoia of the FBI, the predatory greed of the press and above all found himself the victim of a plot that would partly destroy his life. It is this spiral which is at the heart of the Cas Richard Jewell. Since the beginning of his career, the American hero has been the quintessential Eastwoodian character, the one who draws a country advancing between shadow and light, between Huston and Ford. But with American Sniper, things started to move a little: the exceptional beings were gradually replaced by the man in the street, a boy next door turning into a savior almost in spite of himself. In a series of films that almost resembles an American martyrology, inspired by real miscellaneous events that he was filming halfway between fiction and documentary, Clint Eastwood began to consider the relationship of his characters no longer to courage or to mythological constructions, but to institutions, to the people and to reality. With Le Cas Richard Jewell, he goes further and signs a moral fable on the vulnerability of the individual and the citizen in the face of the state machine crushing men and the fury of the press hungry for sensations…

It is suddenly the shadow of another great classic filmmaker who comes to mind when we look at this new opus: Frank Capra, an important but too quickly forgotten influence of Clint [voir encadré]. Like Capra, Eastwood believes in America and its institutions, but like his own, it is first and foremost a chimerical horizon, a project threatened with corruption that should never be taken for granted but perpetually reaffirm, regenerate. And as for the filmmaker of Mr Smith in the Senate, the democratic ideal is embodied less in its political representation or its apparatuses (here all sick) than in its base. This is the deep meaning of this Richard Jewell, who watches, with unusual blackness and frontality, a man representing civic sanctity being crucified, before affirming (and understanding) that what he is defending goes beyond his person. .

The film’s real stroke of genius is to describe this hero in an immediately ambiguous way. Usually, at Eastwood, the heroes have the look of Bradley Cooper, the mustache of Tom Hanks or the build of Matt Damon – they look like a star, they look like Eastwood himself. Jewell (played by Paul Walter Hauser) is quite the opposite. A type erased, corpulent, awkward. An old guy who still lives with mom, takes things very seriously (too seriously, especially his job) and at first seems more efficient at cleaning offices than saving the world. This game with clichés and our prejudices feeds the symbolic power of the film: with his bewildered teddy bear face, Hauser is an anonymous person who we don’t really know if we should be wary of or, on the contrary, follow him. A guy like you and me, a John Doe – that’s good because Le Cas Richard Jewell ultimately works as a proofreading of The man in the street (Meet John Doe in VO), one of Capra’s darkest films, which told how an ambitious journalist fabricated a character of a loser pretending to want to commit suicide to protest against the injustice of society. Same mixture of darkness and sentimentality, same pessimism, and even secondary characters (the journalist, the guy from the FBI) ​​revolts. Moreover, rather than accusing Eastwood of misogyny for the description of his upstart reporter (Olivia Wilde), the American press should perhaps have seen a modern version of the character of Barbara Stanwick in Capra. And Jewell’s final speech, the film’s climax, responds almost word for word to Gary Cooper’s fiery speech and his famous “It’s bigger than whether I’m a fake”. The heroes are threatened and life is definitely not so good at Eastwood…

Trailer :

Richard Jewell: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill were to be the heroes of Clint Eastwood’s film

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