Before there was Weinstein, there was Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly; Bombshell emphasizes that the #MeTooMovement may have only scratched the surface and is commanded by its three female leads.
In 2015, The Big Short, written by Adam McKay and Charles Randolph, was a critical hit for its unique style of storytelling and ability to teach something not so digestible, the 2008 financial crisis, to the American audience in an interesting and digestible way. Vice (2018), solo written and directed by Adam McKay, followed suit, but was met with a mixed reaction due to its controversial subject matter: Dick Cheney. Bombshell also tackles current, controversial subject matter, depicting the scandal that unfolded in 2016 between the women at Fox News and CEO Roger Ailes. However, this time around the film, while written by Charles Randolph, is directed by someone else, Jay Roach. Randolph employs a toned-down version of his approach in The Big Short and Vice, but without Adam McKay at the director’s helm, the end result isn’t as fluent or effectively satirical. The film offers the familiar fourth wall breaks and exaggerated/often mocking dialogue, but never feels like it is firing on all cylinders, never landing daggers in its targets quite the way The Big Short or Vice did. Bombshell will inspire different forms of reflection among male and female audience members. As a male with some level of authority at his job, it reminds me I must be careful of what I say and do, as although I would never intend to come off as predatory, many women are all too familiar with harassment in the workplace and it is my responsibility to create a safe working environment for all.
Charlize Theron is a confident actress and a wonderful talent, and she disappears into the role of Megyn Kelly to the extent we might as well be watching Megyn Kelly; she talks the talk, and walks the walk, never missing a beat. As Kelly, Theron is always in control of the screen, and regardless of any perceptions you have regarding Kelly as a person, you have to respect her bravery for taking on the big dogs despite knowing the fight would risk the career she’d spent so much time building; the same goes for Gretchen Carlson, played well in the first half by Nicole Kidman (she takes a backseat in the second). Margot Robbie is also incredibly compelling as the naïve and fictional character, Kayla Pospisil, looking to move up the entertainment ladder and eventually becoming a victim of Ailes’ predation. Of all the storylines, I would’ve liked to have seen Kayla’s storyline developed further, which offered more creative liberty, and also punched the gut the most. Her character was created from anonymous accounts by Fox News staffers who were victims of sexual assault but bound by non-disclosure agreements.
Bombshell champions the progress of feminism in recent years, but also exposes how that progress can be hindered by women themselves, whether they’re pledging loyalty to a network over their female counterparts or prioritizing their career. The film has everyone looking and sounding the part, exceptionally so, and while there may be a more immediate impact on the viewer, Bombshell doesn’t explore its material deeply enough to leave the lasting impression those who signed up to tell their stories surely hoped it would. 7.5/10