Bombshell (2019)
Bombshell (2019)

Genre: Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 48 min.

Release Date: December 20th, 2019 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Jay Roach Actors: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow, Kate McKinnon, Allison Janney, Malcolm McDowell, Connie Britton, Stephen Root, Ashley Greene, Alice Eve, Liv Hewson, Rob Delaney

 


 

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n the cusp of the 2015 GOP Primary Debate, popular anchor Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) gets into a debacle concerning Donald Trump. Breaking the fourth wall to become an insightful narrator – a direct link to the storytelling process – Kelly walks the viewer through the inner workings of Fox News, detailing the routines of chairman Roger Ailes (John Lithgow), who practically created the town-hall debate platform, and his involvement in a number of previous presidential elections, as well as the way he runs the network (such as using attractive blondes with long legs to increase ratings). She also touches upon Rupert Murdoch (Malcolm McDowell), the media mogul who calls the shots even over Ailes.

“Is this some feminist thing?” When Kelly hosts the Cleveland debate, she interrogates Trump harshly, provoking a Twitter tirade that turns Kelly into a fresh story. And when Trump suggests that she was “anger menstruating” during the event, it understandably riles her up. Meanwhile, Fox & Friends co-anchor Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) becomes a second narrator, speaking to the audience about Ailes’ general inappropriateness around women, which segues to Rudi Bakhtiar (Nazanin Boniadi) and her dismissal from the company after turning down sexual advances from Brian Wilson. And then there’s newcomer Kayla (Margot Robbie), who seeks a promotion from Bill Shine (eventually ousted for harassment and discrimination, too), followed by the introduction of Bill O’Reilly and his own lengthy list of allegations. All of this soon leads to a tumultuous legal battle against Ailes himself – “the most powerful man in TV.”

“It’s only crazy until it happens.” “Bombshell” is a dramatization inspired by actual events, attempting to show the toxic environment behind-the-scenes at the Fox network, especially when it comes to Ailes’ approach to selling sex. Yet it’s also quite the comedy, revealing a few morbid truths through the veil of humor. Kate McKinnon as Jess Carr – a closeted Democrat at Fox News, somehow thriving in hostile territory – is one of the highlights, providing numerous moments for laughs, while Richard Kind as Rudy Giuliani is amusingly goofy. And Lithgow, too, regardless of his character’s unending sliminess, can’t avoid being hilarious under all the makeup and weight and horrendous utterances.

“This is an island of safety and truth.” As the story progresses, using the fictional Kayla as a focal point and a prime example – likely an amalgam of several real women at Fox – of the sexual harassment endured at the hands of the corpulent executive, a lawsuit is finally filed in 2016. And although the network initially backs Ailes, readily coming to his defense, other brave women eventually speak out (though it takes a while, considering that Ailes inspires fear of retaliation and demolished careers), prompting an investigation that will lead to well-known historical outcomes.

Although there are fabricated additives (chiefly with Kayla) to tie the story together, the subject matter is effectively infuriating. And despite a few pacing issues, the steady build to a welcome conclusion is handled nicely – along the lines of many invented political thrillers. And, like “The Report” also from this year, “Bombshell” is an important work, here chronicling a powerful story about women’s rights, undoubtedly worthy of universal viewing. Yet its entertainment value isn’t entirely consistent, perhaps due to the construction of the film and its multiple narrators, along with the knowledge lurking in the background that not everything is completely accurate, which hurts any picture that benefits from a basis in true events.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10