Movie Review: ‘Bombshell’

Director: Jay Roach

Cast: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow, Kate McKinnon, Connie Britton, Allison Janney, Malcolm McDowell, Rob Delany

Plot: When fired Fox News host Gretchen Carlson set out to sue news chief Robert Ailes for sexual harassment she brought to light an ongoing and outrageous culture of abuse.

Review: To say that this film is about an important issue that needs to be kept at the forefront of our modern culture is an understatement. It’s not just that the men running the show at Fox News are disgusting, sub-human buckets of stale vomit, but this situations exists in workplaces across the world. This is simply one of the more public instances, and included women who are presented to be stronger, confident and powerful leaders. When they started coming forward and naming names they were going against the most powerful media empire in the world.

Which is why this film needed to punch a bit harder. There’s plenty here we like – the performances, the remarkable likeness to the real people they depict, the willingness to take on the story – but they not only create weaknesses but also draw attention to them. There are people out there, including Fox, who won’t like the message being delivered and they’re going to focus on any cracks they can find.

When the film opens we get a title card informing us that this is based on a true story, and that the real people are played by actors. Except in archival footage. Oh, and some aren’t real people. They’re fictional characters used for dramatisation. All of this raises some questions, like how much is made up. If it all happened, or if some of it is based on hearsay or speculation. There’s an unspoken agreement that there’s going to be some creative liberties made in a film based on a true story, and we’ve all got the internet to fact check, so I’m a bit hung up on the inclusion of this disclaimer at the start of the film…and again at the end.

The characters of Kayla Pospisil (Robbie) and Jess Carr (McKinnon) are fictional, to be clear. Kayla is an ambitious reporter working as part of Bill O’Reilly’s team, and Jess is a closeted democratic lesbian working at Fox. Kayla becomes a victim of Ailes’ (Lithgow) attention and is the one of the three main characters who succumbs to his harassment. Research reveals that both women are an amalgamation of real people, but how much of what is depicted is part of the real story is left a mystery. We’re not sure why this decision was made, as the actions of Ailes is revolting enough to tell to the story, and Bill O’Reilly only gets a passing mention when he deserves to be thrown under a bus of seven.

This may seem like a petty detail to focus on for the majority of the review, but this really undercuts the message of a movie that should be dropping like…well…a bombshell. When you strip the ‘fictionalised question mark’ aspects of the movie away there’s plenty to be enraged about. Richard Kind as Rudy Giuliani comes across as cartoonish, but the depictions of real public figures are impressive. We particularly enjoyed Malcolm McDowell as Rupert Murdoch, after we expected him to be the cartoonish one.

We’d like to see a hard-hitting expose of this behaviour that doesn’t pull the punches by dragging a highlighter across the most glaring flaw of their argument. We’d also prefer the fun, stylistic visual approach to continue past the first ten minutes.

Rating: SIX out of TEN