After Fox TV news personality Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) is pulled from the air and after her own disastrous turn in the national spotlight triggered by fighting with Republican candidate Donald Trump, Anchor woman Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) begins to hit her own glass ceiling with boss and abuser Roger Ailes (John Lithgow). Ailes is a serial abuser but his position and the lockstep silence about internal issues the Fox environment insists on have hidden his misdeeds for decades. But Carlson and Kelly start digging, one as part of a lawsuit and the other as self protection, and they start to find women who will talk. Among them is Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie), a psuedonimous amalgamation of real people, who is currently being abused by Ailes in trade for a potential rise in status and on air time. When the news breaks of the lawsuit against Ailes, it turns out to be the real bombshell, and the women have the receipts to prove their allegations, bringing down the largest force in American news and politics.
The Production: 3/5
It’s difficult to discuss the premise of Bombshell within the confines of HTF’s well advised prohibition against politics and religion but there are a few things we can agree on. First, Roger Ailes was both one of the most politically connected and feared news producers in the US. He was also accused by dozens of women of degrading comments, lewd suggestions, physical and mental abuse and more. His network aided and abetted that behavior despite it’s outward appearance to give highly visible anchor slots to very stylish right wing women. Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum his actions are abhorrent and the network and the world are better because he was removed.
Second, despite being produced by ostensibly liberal movie producers, directors and actors, Fox was portrayed mostly in neutral to positive light. There are myriad ways that they could have thrown Fox further under the bus. Yes, there are some digs, particularly:
Roger Ailes: News is like a ship. You take your hands off the wheel and it pulls hard to the left.
Jess Carr: Also stop worrying if the story’s legit. And if you can’t source it, just go with, “Some are saying.”
Jess Carr: You have to adopt the mentality of an Irish street cop. The world is a bad place. People are lazy morons. Minorities are criminals. Sex is sick but interesting. Ask yourself, “What would scare my grandmother, or pi** off my grandfather?” And that’s a Fox story. Are you writing this down?
Kayla Pospisil: Oh, it makes so much sense.
Jess Carr: Frighten, titillate.
In the grand scheme of things they treated Fox pretty well.
Third, the movie doesn’t have much punch. Sure Ailes goes down and the 3 female leads put in award worthy performances. But nothing changed. Fox, if anything, is worse today from a facts standpoint. Ailes is dead from a tragic fall. And the ‘zinger’ to the film was that Carlson had tapes of Ailes bad behavior, which is the only thing that gets results today. It’s all a bit ‘so what?’ for me.
3D Rating: NA
Picture quality is fine. The ‘look’ of the film can veer from hyper real news style to ‘behind the scenes’ film look, but it is what it is. It’s clean, no artifacts, and it’s bright and bubbly.
Overall the film is center heavy as befits a mostly talky film. However the thing that elevates it a bit is the terrific use of sound. First was the inspired use of Billy Eilish’s “Bad Guy” in the trailer, followed up by Regina Spektor’s Little Soldiers theme song. But the most amazing part is the Elevator Scene, which has become almost a meme of it’s own, backed by the “Elevator Trio” song. The Ha’s it uses just give chills. It’s even better in the film than listening to it just on youtube.
Special Features: 4/5
I went through the full seven part extra segment and found it both insightful and enjoyable.
No Easy Truths: The Making of Bombshell (7-Part Documentary)
Quid Pro Quo: Charlize, Nicole, Margot, John
Human Dynamics: The Ensemble Cast
Breaking the Fourth Wall: Visual Design
Layer by Layer: Makeup, Hair & Clothing
A Unique Skillset: Jay Roach
Catalyst For Change: Parting Thoughts
Overall I’m struck by the awesome performances of the three leads. Charlize Theron was absolutely steely as Kelly and she was a force in this movie, despite the vast majority of the work being done to actually take down Ailes resting on Carlson’s shoulders. Kidman’s best scene for me was confronting a viewer who voiced what a lot of people think: Fox is making America worse and weaker. What can Carlson actually say to that? Be nice to me I’m just doing my job? Give us all a break. And Robbie’s performance is just terrifying. What would any of us do when confronted with the choices she faced? Who would believe us? Is it worth the abuse to get ahead?
Lithgow is likewise a hero for being able to perform the role of Ailes, with both an anything to win damn the truth attitude and his horrible abuses come to life.
There’s literally a whos who of supporting cast that are great too. Rob Delaney as a producer stuck between supporting his friends and the company. Kate McKinnon as a closeted gay democrat working at fox. Allison Janney as a take no crap lawyer. Malcolm McDowell and Rupert Murdoch. Connie Britton as Ailes’ wife. Great performances all around.
But in the end? It didn’t really resonate with me. There was nothing here I could take as joy or lesson. The network still is what it is. Maybe worse. Ailes was stopped but the network still goes on.B082PPZV88