Based on a real scandal, Bombshell takes you into the corridors of the most powerful and controversial media empire of all time. It reveals an explosive story of three very different women who find the courage to go after the man who helped put Fox News in the forefront. A man who wielded power and abuse at the same time. No one saw this catalytic movement coming.
When Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman), co-host of influential'Fox & Friends was fired, she fired back by slapping Fox News' founder Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) with a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment. The fuse had been lit, but it was expected to be snuffed out by the seemingly untouchable media mogul. What happened next echoed around the world. In just 16 days, Ailes would make corporate history and fall far from grace, crushed under the force of multiple women finally coming forward with their own stories, including superstar Fox News correspondent Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron).
It was just over a year later in October 2017, the New York Times would report multiple accusations against entertainment heavyweight Harvey Weinstein. The winds of change were blowing to become a defining moment. It catapulted the small pre-existing #MeToo movement into a global phenomenon and opened up the codes of silence across every industry and homefront.
Directed by Jay Roach and written by Charles Randolph, three of the producers (Roach, Randolph and Charlize Theron) delved into the deeper cultural significance and never let the politics overshadow what the story was really about. It's not preachy and it doesn't dwell on any single point of view. Instead, it brings to light the varying mix of personal motives and decisions of individuals in bringing about social change. Led by an incredible ensemble cast including Margot Robbie (fictional Kayla Pospisil), this film gives us a taste of a wide range of personalities in characters who represent many points of view.
Theron is the film's narrative centre as we take a walk into the revealing world of Fox News. She's the highly rated nightly news show host of The Kelly File. Fiery, confrontational and opinionated in character, Theron has her work cut out for her to portray the complex character who is driven to achieve, yet carries the contradictions of an inner struggle that has her liking and continuing to work with her abuser. Theron plays it very cool, so cool it borders on lacking a show of complexity and warmth.
Kidman as Gretchen Carlson, a Minnesota-born former Miss America turned popular Fox News host is the moral centre who frames the issue and takes a stand in a David and Goliath-like situation. Her story is about what she's up against in trying to make a change. Determinedly jumping in headfirst and hoping others will follow. Though Kidman plays the catalyst for change, she's basically sidelined and thus her character is limited outside of the mechanics of taking a stand.
It's unusual to find good guy Lithgow cast as an abuser, but he manages to take on a hugely challenging role as a character full of contrasts. He has to be seemingly professional and no-nonsense, yet gripped by his own compulsions. He is a man of many colours who believes he helps women by giving them their careers, even though he controls the length of their skirts. Fine actor though he is, weighed down by his prosthetics and holed up in his office, there's no beat to his personality one would expect from a man with his finger on the pulse.
Robbie as Kayla plays a fresh-faced weather girl from Florida, enthusiastic about climbing the ladder to success. She's the emotional centre of the story and gives one of the most identifiable moment in the film when she auditions for Ailes. Infamous for his insistence that his on-camera talent twirl before him because media is visual, Robbie exudes reality as she wonderfully crumbles subtly in horror and humiliation, successfully conveying to us the breaking down of innocence and naivety and the off-balanced confusion felt in that moment.
Overall Bombshell does not have the emotional content one would expect from a film that puts the spotlight on a very emotional subject. It falls a little flat and doesn't really delve into the depths about what the three women at the centre of the film are going through. In not giving the time of day to the emotional front, it waters down what could have been a meaty characterisation of three very complicated women.