In the #MeToo era, Bombshell is at the forefront of films that are finally telling women’s stories, exposing the shocking truth behind the surprising culture and abuse scandal at Fox News. The slick docu-drama proves an intriguing insight into the political workings of a network newsroom, painting the picture for just how the far right network became such an toxic environment for their female staff, pitting women against each other.
Directed by Jay Roach and written by The Big Short‘s Charles Randolph, Bombshell brings the sexual harassment scandal of Fox News and Fox Television Stations CEO, Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) to the forefront. Opening in the groundbreaking 2016 presidential race, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly’s hard hitting interview with Republican front-runner Donald Trump unearths a culture of gender bias and debasement at the far right newsroom, headed up by the abusive and predatory CEO Roger Ailes. Following a relentless stint of intimidation tactics experienced following the interview, Kelly attempts to take this up with Ailes with no success, whilst trying to avoid getting dragged into a campaign against his behavior, spearheaded by Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman). Their eventual allegations, along with Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie), against the CEO will forever change the Fox News corporation.
There’s no denying that this character driven drama is an entertaining and gripping film, cleverly establishing the culture and hierarchy at the news studio with punchy fourth-wall breaking exposition, immediately immersing you into the affair. There’s many parallels to Adam Mckay’s political comedy Vice and comedy-drama The Big Short, as Bombshell attempts to break down complicated topics including American politics and it’s influence on the media in a similarly slick and smart style, with plenty of humour to boot. However, other than a few key uncomfortable and shocking scenes, Roach doesn’t really explore the case deeper than the sensationalistic surface, leaving a slightly hollow feeling.
A smart move was casting trio Charlize Theron, Margot Robbie and Nicole Kidman as the film’s leads, they all shine – particularly Theron and Robbie, who will undoubtedly receive Oscar buzz for their performances. Charlize Theron is utterly remarkable as Megyn Kelly; within a matter of seconds she becomes the role, completely nailing the mannerisms and speech, thanks in part to the amazing prosthetic work of Academy Award winner Kazu Hiro. The role is one that’s undoubtedly controversial due to the news anchor’s own views, (she insisted that Santa Claus couldn’t be black on air) but Theron does a great job in gaining your sympathy.
Robbie however has the more emotional arc, portraying newbie Kayla’s journey to rise through the ranks, undergoing a horrific experience with Ailes to gain favour. Her relationship with production assistant Jess Carr (Kate McKinnon), a closeted lesbian democratic, was one of the more interesting in the film. In comparison Kidman probably has the least screen time to work with, but always portrays Gretchen sincerely and in earnest, particularly when she attempts to rebel against her male colleagues and their constant sexist remarks on air. However, in such a packed and star studded cast, at times it felt like there were almost too many cameos though, with some landing better than others!
Featuring a number of outstanding performances and hard hitting scenes, Bombshell is an important film that hopefully sparks similar discourse on work environments, yet all too often lets its heroines off the hook when Ailes’ behaviour served their own self interest.