Bombshell tells a true story about the toxic environment on the build up to Donald Trump's presidency campaign for Fox News anchors Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) and Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman). The two anchors accuse Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) of sexual harassment alongside Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie), her character represents the other women who came forward from Fox to speak out. This story is greatly significant, it deserved to be told and these womens’ voices deserved to speak, however the incoherent narrative of the film does not give it light in best possible way. Bombshell is a hard watch with heavy content matter and it is a great shame the filming made it more incomprehensible still.
Director Jay Roach takes inspiration from The Big Short (2015), a hugely inspirational and popular film. It focuses on true and modern stories and displays them with slick camera techniques, fast paced narratives and a disregard for the fourth wall, which is continually broken. Roach with Bombshell, essentially fails to imitate this form. There is no through line of narrative. The fast-paced and snappy feel is lost to incoherency and this vitally important story fails to grip the audience in the way it could and should have done. If you lose concentration for a moment you could become lost, the film transfers between past and present at pace and does not slow to deliver key plot points, blink and you could miss a critical moment of action. Roach treats the first act like a sprint, when, this film needed more consideration of pace. The second act lacks something in comparison to the first and with more direction Bombshell could have blown away any audience. Despite the rawness of filming there are some incredible scenes that are emotionally devastating and made me feel dirty and unsettled. The closed-door casting session involving Margot Robbie is incredibly hard to see and highlights how sexual harassment is so cruel and casual in how it happens. This scene is especially painful considering how she is representing many women and it feels like through this one performance, the pain of many women who have been exploited and harassed is being conveyed to the audience. This film is raw and truthful, though incoherent in points, it captures the painful story of sexual harassment at Fox News.
The leading ladies perform amazingly in this film. Charlize is 100 percent believable as Megyn Kelly, her commitment to the role is incredible. Her use of prosthetics and the way she imitates the voice, facial expressions and body language of her character are perfect and add to the gritty realism of the film. The nomination of Best Actress in a leading role is utterly deserved. The only problematic treatment of her character comes through its flattening, Megyn Kelly is reduced to the stereotype of 'good' vs. 'evil', (in this case, Roger Ailes.) It would have made for an incredibly dynamic portrayal of sexual harassment if they had showed her character in a more nuanced light, emphasising that regardless of morality, no human being deserved to be sexually harassed or abused. The fact that her character had negative traits that were only handled in passing, like racial slurs made on air about the colour of Santa Claus, means that the director could have commented on this and I believe it would have added to the gritty realism that dominates this film. Margot Robbie does a fabulous job as supporting actress, these two figures dominate the film with their skill. Robbie is exceptional. The closed-door casting scene captures how uncomfortable and fearful she is in that moment and reflects this to the audience perfectly. The scene is that much more painful to watch because of the incredible acting that portrays it. John Lithgow likewise does an unbelievable job in playing a despicable, deplorable and downright disgusting human being. His character is completely revolting, and very easy to hate. In terms of casting, this film deserves all the praise that I can heap on it. There is not a performance that I could fault. The only disappointment came in the form of Nicole Kidman, whose character was not given enough screen time. Her character drove the initial narrative setting the harassment lawsuits in motion, but her agency over the plot ended in the first act and she is virtually absent until the climax of the film. Her performance leaves you wishing she was featured more and this is the only criticism that I have of the acting within Bombshell, (that and Roger Ailes might have been too good at portraying an abhorrent harasser his performance leaves the audience feeling shook.)
Bombshell is a frenetic and breathless film that tells a massively important story. It is hugely emotive at points and the acting is brilliant but the film misses the mark in terms of narrative drive. It fails to replicate The Big Short and I believe it would have been a lot better if it had developed its own narrative style. The director is at fault in falling short on delivering home the emotion of this true story. It is a worthwhile watch and I recommend it on the basis of the vitalness of the story, the narrative has shaped and will continue to shape modern media for years to come. It is just a shame that this film lacks the direction and coherency that would truly recommend it as not just a worthwhile story but an amazing film too.