One of the first films to come out of the #MeToo movement sees a blistering trio of performances headline, what can often be an inconsistent yet striking recount of sordid goings-on under the Fox News brand.
Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) is the head of Fox News and believes that presenting on air is a visual medium; which has him casting attractive women and making sexual advances. Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) is the first to speak out and hopes that with the might of Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) more will follow and reveal the scummy bullying of their boss.
‘Bombshell’ is directed by the man who gave us 2 of the ‘Austin Powers’ films and written by one half of ‘The Big Short’ creators, so in that news you cannot help but fret that a serious case such as Ailes’ misconduct might be trivialised and twisted into a comic yarn. There are definitely cases of that; with the script shakily lurching through a sensationalist sea and not diving any deeper, plus liberties are taken and the portrayal of Megyn Kelly as a strong heroine is an alarming choice.
Also there is the dialogue itself which comes thick and fast and unless you’re hot on the topic of this scandal and U.S politics generally, then that yammering can slide over your head but at least the film does a good job in sustaining a hurrying pace of unbelievable truths surfacing, as the rise of women feel confident to speak up. It’s a shame then that at some parts this movie possesses the nauseating aspects of an Adam McKay feature and with these so-called stylistic decisions the film riles you up, not in the intended manner.
There is no denying there are great and powerful scenes along the way and the talents of Theron, Kidman and Margot Robbie are a sight to behold but director Jay Roach doesn’t have a firm grasp on making this a more resounding, thought through drama. The likes of a scene where the camera lingers too long on a dress hitching up too high showcases a shift from uncomfortable to gratuitous, falling into the camp of Ailes’ employee sexualisation, where instead cutting away would have been more impacting.
Theron does shine as this odd beacon and embodies Kelly in a strangely chameleon-esque way and shows just why she’s one of the best actors working today as she leads us through the narrative. Robbie is a marvel and even as a false character; a composite of many harassed women she delivers the broken innocence and perfect cry eye who wants to make it big at Fox. Then there’s Lithgow who recycles his Churchill bulge but adds fascinating sneer and sleaze to a man sweating with power and lust.
‘Bombshell’ has an apt title because this story delivers near-constant and fairly emphatic revelations which shake the nest and let a new pit of vipers into the Fox environment upon each exposed secret. If only these moments of gross disbelief in the lead up to Trump’s Presidency weren’t tainted by frustrating messiness and hyped fabrication.