Bombshell, the new movie from Director Jay Roach and penned by Academy Award winner Charles Randolph is very much a movie of the moment. As Randolph’s previous film (The Big Short) captured the lingering effects of the 2008 Financial Crisis through the lens of its farcical nature, Bombshell does the very same when it comes to workplace sexual harassment. While the movie’s inception was before the revelations concerning Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and the subsequent #metoo movement, this movie works when viewed within that context. It’s very much a film that works not only as its own self-contained narrative, but also trades on the associations that audiences will make between it and the world around them. It’s rather meta and self-referential, and in sum rather messy, but when all is said and done it’s a pacy and engrossing watch, both timely and enjoyable.
The film wastes no time establishing its setting. The narrative follows three women’s experiences at Fox News during the revelations about CEO Roger Ailes’ harassment of female employees. Superstar anchor Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron in an astounding transformative performance) leads us through the loud and vibrant newsrooms at Fox, outlining the culture with zippy one liners and Trumpian references galore. Indeed, a huge portion of the first act deals with the fallout of Kelly’s infamous debate confrontation with the then Republican contender. As a political junkie myself, the merging of notable moments from the election campaign alongside the narrative was of huge appeal yet for the unconverted, the set up is admittedly jarring. It’s understandable that thrusting the viewer into the messy world of Fox through and its leadership through the lens of Kelly’s “bust ups” with Trump but when the film’s storylines converge, it can’t help but feel like a strange deviation for the sake of a few nodding winks.
The introduction of Kayla (Margot Robbie as a composite character to represent an assortment of Ailes’ victims) and Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman), the anchor whose firing began the slew of allegations, provide much needed focus to the feature, and hone in on the issue of the harassment. The most powerful scene in the film involves Kayla having to “audition” in a private meeting with Roger. It’s a squirm inducing moment featuring some stellar acting from both Robbie and John Lithgow. It’s interesting that the film’s standout moment is one which counters the fast and zippy tone of the rest of the film, but maybe it’s the jarring and out of place nature of it that makes it so memorable.
As has been said already, the performances are great, especially Theron’s, and the film excels in bringing to life both fictional and real supporting players. Kate Mckinnon stands out particularly as the closeted Lesbian and Democrat at the network. It’s a refreshing character one doesn’t expect to see in a movie about Fox News. Credit should go squarely in the direction of the makeup department, who are able to enhance the stars’ chameleonic talent.
Much of the focus of this film’s discussion has surrounded the controversial nature of covering Fox. Hollywood is as far away from that culture as it’s possible to get, and the empowering of some of the most controversial female journalists of out times is something bound to be brought into question. Indeed, the film acknowledges Kelly’s dubious comments in the past with the infamous claim that Santa is white getting the most attention. Yet the politics of the women does not detract from their experience, and the film works hard to establish sympathetic links based on their trauma rather than their political ideologies. It’s a perfectly valid and responsible approach, and the film carries it off.
Bombshell is a complex beast of a film, one that exists as both a movie and political statement. It’s writing is admittedly a little messy in the way it ties the stories together, often veering into political jargon, yet the performances, timely themes and evocation of the exciting and wild world of Fox News makes it more than worth a watch.
7/10- A movie for political junkies, Bombshell expertly utilises its star ensemble and explores a singular atmosphere at the most controversial network in the US, but it’s script lacks a little coherence