Explosions don’t always do the damage that you’d hope…
While there’s no denying some genuine pop in seeing the Fox News Scandal put to screen in Bombshell it needed to have a little more TNT in it to make it feel like a truly memorable piece of cinema but at least it keeps us talking about the issues surrounding this story which quite frankly is the important thing when all is said and done.
Bombshell is a revealing look inside the most powerful and controversial media empire of all time; and the explosive story of the women who brought down the infamous man who created it.
Movies like this have a clear cut formula that makes them work and admittedly Bombshell hits most of those buttons thanks to its ensemble cast working its ass off to raise the importance and quality of the material out of the hands of some mediocre direction.
Jay Roach is a decent enough directorial hand but it really feels like the script from Charles Randolph (who won previously for The Big Short) is getting far too smoothed out to feel as biting as it might want to. It’s a got a solid flow to it all and never has moments that are clunky and awkward but it all kind of suffers from the reality that we ultimately know where this story is going and it plays out with much more softer and rounded edges.
We’re very much reminded of the importance of the discussion around sexual harassment in the work place but as a piece of dramatic entertainment it rarely has that kind of ‘A-HA!’ hook that you need to keep audiences not only engaged but truly invested in it all. Combine that with some fairly underwhelming character development it’s hard to really appreciate the stakes of it all because even while people are getting harassed the stakes never actually come across entirely that well.
Thankfully everything in the film really rises above the watermark because of some genuinely excellent performances.
Charlize Theron (who also serves as a producer on this) is truly putting in the extra and quality work to get us behind the struggles that her character is facing, not only as a woman but as a woman with a degree of power over men in her job at Fox News. It’s all…uncomfortable, which is the point obviously…HOWEVER…we also end up feeling a little uncomfortable because we’re remembering that she’s playing Megan Kelly who while a consummate professional (for the most part) at her job, she’s never been a particularly likeable public figure. Theron really works to make her version of Kelly somewhat sympathetic over all and it’s an impressive and probably awards nominated worth thing to watch.
Nicole Kidman is solid but plays it fairly straight at Gretchen Carlson while Margot Robbie as Kayla Pospisil (a fictional composite of several people at Fox News) has a couple of moments to shine but never gets to deep into the complex pain of it all (aside from one genuinely gripping scene) but she’s kind of wasted bouncing between the positives she feels for the job and the misogynistic crap she has to put up with to keep it. Meanwhile John Lithgow as Roger Ailes chews the scenery in a fat suit and almost no one else really had much to do, except for one character who really encapsulates what the entire experience of working in a place like that must be like.
Kate McKinnon as random Fox News staffer Jess Carr (a fictional character) was really fantastic as the closeted Liberal and Lesbian working at Fox News with little to no other options for employment feeling truly at odds with everything she has to tolerate on a daily basis. She’s a genuine scene stealer and probably the most relatable character in the entire film because while characters like Theron’s Megan has to deal with the complex nature of being somewhat complicit to the behaviour of the establishment, McKinnon’s character is really the bystander and the innocent without a genuine voice in a toxic work situation like she’s in where if she wants to keep doing the job that she loves she’s going to have eat a lot of shit in order to get through every single day.
Ultimately, Bombshell is worth seeing as it’s a genuinely solid piece of entertainment and it keeps a fresh reminder in the pop culture zeitgeist of how these toxic male dominated work environments are far too prevalent across so many different fields and industries. And while it’s certainly a good thing to champion and encourage women to speak out against the behaviour of the Roger Ailes ( or Harvey Weinstein’s) of the world, it’s on us to remember that sometimes the story that is genuinely more interesting is with one of those people who may not be a direct victim of sexual harassment or abuse in the work place but has no choice other than to keep their mouths shut in order to maintain and sustain their very livelihood in a career that they’ve dream of their entire lives.