Bombshell leaves a lot to be desired, and is only saved by decent performances.
Director Jay Roach’s (Trumbo) latest film, Bombshell, centers on the revelations of sexual harassment by Fox News CEO Roger Ailes (John Lithgow). The film stars Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly, Nicole Kidman as Gretchen Carlson, and Margot Robbie as Kayla Pospisil. Kayla being a fictional character, created as an amalgam of over 20 Fox news staffers who reported sexual harassment by Ailes. The film takes place during 2016 and also documents how Megyn Kelly became a household name after Donald Trump attacked her following the 2016 Republican Debate.
In some ways Bombshell is an important movie. It’s a story that should be told, and needs to be brought to light in a way where men and women can see what happened. Yet the film gives nothing of value if you already know the story here. It adds nothing at all to the conversation about workplace harassment, or the horrible actions of men in power. If anything the film ends with the statement that men who do these horrible things will only get a slap on the wrist, while women have to give up nearly everything in their lives to fight for themselves.
The film does little more than inform on what happened, and at times the information given seems too dramatized. The fact that Robbie’s character of Kayla Pospisil is fictionalized, and that the only person she really has any scenes with is Kate McKinnon’s Jess Carr, another fictionalized character, also weakens the film greatly. The film would have been stronger by focusing solely on Kidman’s Carlson and Theron’s Kelly, but feels the need to add a younger face into the mix. There isn’t even a good reason to add her into the mix until the final scenes of the film, and those moments feel far too heavy handed and ridiculous.
This is a difficult topic to address, but it’s one that needs to be done. For too long men in power have used their strengths to abuse women in ways that are ridiculously unacceptable. We have looked away as we let rapists assholes get away with murder. Luckily things are starting to change, and slowly these men are starting to lose their power and be forced to take accountability for their actions. As this happens it’s important to shine a light on these events as a reminder to other horrible men that their actions won’t be tolerated, and as a reminder to women that their voices will be heard, and justice will be found. But to halfheartedly tell this story, in a way that feels like little more than made for TV movie, is a bit upsetting.
There are plenty of ways Bombshell could have tried to comment on the events that play out in the film. It could have shown the darkness surrounding these actions, and the true toll it took on the victims of Ailes. It could have painted Ailes in a light where he seems like a much more evil man. It could have been crafted to show that Fox News did a terrible job of protecting the people who worked there. But instead it tries to use colorful brushstrokes to tell a spark notes version of the events that played out.
The one saving face of the film is in the performances of Kidman, Theron, Robbie and Lithgow. They help sell each moment in a way which makes it intriguing enough to keep going. But even their hard work isn’t enough to give the film much value. It’s a shame that this story- which could have been deep and meaningful study on how these things happen or the affects of such events, could become some flashy, stupid, Oscar bait. The women involved deserve more, and the world definitely could deserve a better lesson.
Bombshell is currently playing in theaters.