Did Richard Jewell come out yet?
That was the question an older woman at the checkout counter at the local supermarket was asking the guy behind the register, who was looking up the scan code for avocados, which came after his successful scanning of a box of Wheat Thins, a plastic container of cut watermelon, and a box of Grape Nuts.
No, he said. He didn’t think Richard Jewell had come out yet.
There was the middle-aged man in the Starbucks, casually chatting with a slew of other people waiting for their online orders, wondering aloud if “that new movie from Clint Eastwood had come out yet”? Another younger woman, grabbing her egg-white and turkey bacon breakfast sandwich wondered if he was “talking about that movie with the real people playing themselves on the train with those terrorists” but was quickly corrected by a more pop-culture aware iced-coffee dude who made sure she knew that “that movie came out like two years ago; but I’m not sure what new movie you’re talking about.”
The Barista, from behind the counter corrected them all. “You’re talking about that movie with Olivia Wilde, where she fights back against the press for accusing her of sleeping with a CIA agent?”
Confusion all around.
Across town, at the local Arclight Cinemas, a young couple looked up at the movies playing there, the times emblazoned for all to see. There were twenty-eight showings of The Rise of Skywalker and a few indie flicks, and some movie called Richard Jewell showing in the smallest theater, and only showing at 4:15 and 10:55pm.
“What’s Richard Jewell?” the young woman asked the young man. “Is that the Kenneth Branagh Shakespeare thing?”
The story is the story. Nobody is talking about Richard Jewell.
Perhaps that’s why Olivia Wilde and Warner Bros. decided to create a story out of a non-story, which was the fact that the original reporter who “broke the story” about the FBI considering Richard Jewell as a possible suspect in the Olympic bombing, potentially slept with said FBI agent in order to get the information to break said story. Perhaps that story is more interesting as a movie than the story about Richard Jewell. Perhaps that’s why more people think Richard Jewell is a movie about a reporter sleeping with government agents to get a scoop than it is a story about a wannabe somebody just trying to do something good for the people around him.
Did Richard Jewell actually come out?
Yes. It came out ten days ago. And it’s made $9.5 million. And most people talking about it are talking about it in the same way people are talking about menu items in restaurants they’ve never heard of, nor are they willing to take a chance to try them, even if the waiter says it’s one of his favorite items on the menu, ever.
So, why is Richard Jewell shitting the bed so badly?
Because it’s a non-story. It’s a story most people caught up with when it happened the first time. Because it’s a quiet, understated, TV-movie of sorts directed with such lack of flair or style that it’s the equivalent of white noise in the movie theater. It’s a movie that could have ended up on Netflix and been quietly ignored in lieu of the latest season of Super Sugar Cake Mix Extreme, simply because the visual milieu of Paul Walter Hauser on a 2 inch by 6 inch movie poster, isn’t compelling in the least.
If Warner Bros. had been smarter, they would have taken that $45 million dollar budget for the film (yes!) and given Olivia Wilde the money and had her make three separate movies instead. And I can guarantee you that those three movies would have generated more than $9.5 million in domestic box office, and generated far more interest at the supermarket, coffee shop and movie theater than what Richard Jewell has done so far.
Maybe if Clint had done what Tom Hooper had done with Cats, and spent his ridiculous budget on creating a CGI-version of Richard Jewell, instead, the pure horror of it all would have created a buzz that would have far exceeded what we have here today. Perhaps if Clint had done anything unique with the film, instead of checking the boxes he’s been checking for years, there might have been something special to talk about.
But until then, nobody’s gonna be talking about Richard-what’s his name. In that Jewell of the box office crown.