‘Bombshell’ is based on the accounts of several female employees at Fox News who set out to expose CEO Roger Ailes for sexual harassment.
The zippy editing and storytelling format that kicks off ‘Bombshell’ easily recalls Adam McKay’s ‘The Big Short’ and ‘Vice’. The odd breaking of the fourth wall and resilient, egocentric personalities that characterise the feature also draw such likeness. Charlize Theron is on fire as Megyn Kelly, and looks so like the TV personality it can be a little distracting. Kelly and Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) are portrayed as tough, putting up with a lot of bull, and about to boil over as they’re incessantly told to “not be sensitive” and “play nice with the boys” to get ahead.
The acting is highly commendable across the board as elsewhere, Margot Robbie also impresses as fictional character Kayla Pospisil. She often shares the screen with Kate McKinnon who, typically associated with comedy (and is in fact the one shining beacon of poor comedies like ‘Rough Night’ and ‘The Spy Who Dumped Me’), proves she has the chops for dramatic acting too. Another performance that deserves high praise is John Lithgow in the role of Roger Ailes. He is perfectly horrific and repulsive as the disgraced mogul.
The outrages of ‘Bombshell’ are numerous – a reporter is fired by an anchor for not sleeping with him; legs are expected to be on display on camera; a radio broadcast says Kelly used to be pretty but now her nostrils have gotten bigger from flaring so much. Such behaviours, language and attitudes are, incredibly, accepted as the norm, and a scene between Lithgow’s Ailes and Robbie’s character in which she is forced to demonstrate her “loyalty” proves especially frightening and upsetting.
‘Bombshell’ puts forward the question of cost – what is the price of getting good television, of pushing your career forward, of sacrificing your principles and self-worth? The extent to which power and abuse can be hidden in a system is harrowingly portrayed. However, overall, such explorations are uneven. ‘Bombshell’ reflects and inspires outrage, which given the events it depicts, seems just. As a movie though, it glances over the more important aspects of the story and delves too long into less interesting parts. It strives to be a tour de force and will no doubt move audiences, but its lack of focus and sure-footedness is something of a disappointment.