Mon, 10 Feb 2020
Running time 1hr 49min
Based on the accounts of several women at Fox News who accused CEO Roger Ailes of sexual harassment in 2016, Bombshell tells the story of how these women took huge risks in order to expose the heinous crimes. A necessary tale in the post-Me Too era, the film doesn’t quite manage to tackle its serious content in an effective way that other such films have of modern scandals.
The film strives for a similar tone as 2018’s Vice, infusing comedic and documentary elements to shed light on abuse of power that caused concerning events that are still relevant today. However, Bombshell just doesn’t manage to pull it off as well, coming off as messy and incoherent. The flip-flopping between comedy and drama can be jolting, especially when dealing with the heavy subject matter of sexual harassment.
The use of voiceover and fourth wall breaks is also quite unsatisfying, as they are either used too much at times or not enough at others. The documentary-style cinematography does help ground the story in reality, but it doesn’t aid the film enough.
Bombshell’s positives come in its acting displays. Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie all put in great performances. Theron is unrecognisable as Megyn Kelly, the Fox News host who was instrumental in the downfall of Ailes. The journey she goes through in the film is without a doubt its core, as she comes to terms with the inherent sexism ingrained into the American conservative media, a system that has also made her highly successful.
Theron is by far the best part of this movie, and although her performance isn’t as flashy as others this year, her Oscar nom is well deserved.
Kidman also shines as Gretchen Carlson, the scandal’s prime protagonist, as she decides to sue Ailes following her sacking from the network. Although she tends to take the backseat to Kelly throughout the story, Kidman brings her talented acting chops to another good role.
Robbie continues to prove herself as one of the foremost actresses in Hollywood with her portrayal of the fictionalised character of Kayla Pospisil. A young employee hoping to work her way up at the network, Pospisil comes into contact with Ailes, who offers to help her up the ladder for sexual favours.
Robbie’s acting is superb as she deftly portrays a woman attempting to stand tall following the harrowing experience Ailes put her through. Pospisil is rightly used to show the emotional trauma that sexual harassment causes, however, the scene that is shown between her and Ailes feels far too overly gratuitous and uncomfortable to watch as a viewer. Showing the trauma was necessary, showing what caused it was not.
Lithgow also does well to portray the feigned ignorance and predatory creepiness of Ailes, but the stellar cast doesn’t save Bombshell from suffering due to a messy script.
It succeeds in its educational aims, showing just how rife sexual harassment can be in workplace environments and the effects it can have on those who go through it. But it fails in truly grasping the severity of its subject and it doesn’t dare to venture past the sensationalist nature of the scandal it portrays.