Bombshell Review: A familiar, yet powerful bomb with a leading trio that lights the screen ablaze
With a trio of lead performances that boast a sense of genuine confidence and power and an intriguing narrative that constantly keeps you on its hook, Bombshell give viewers a peek behind the curtain of one of the biggest news stories of the decade.
The film is told between three perspectives of Fox News employees that work under the powerful Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) – that of Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman), Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron), and Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie). With Carlson, she essentially kicks off the fall of Ailes with her frustration for her being scrutinized and stamped out because of how she opposes Ailes and is drops the initial “Bombshell” that kicks everything off. Kidman is definitely at her best here in showcasing the held-in frustration that Carlson has and the determination she has in fleshing out the truth. Carlson’s story shows, sort of, why its so hard for women to speak out and the scrutiny they’ll receive in the fallout of them speaking out. It’s kind of heartbreaking to see how tough it actually is to speak out against someone as powerful as Ailes and the rough fallout of her never being able to show her face or speak out further. It’s an interesting story that initially fuels the film and an important one that sparks others to speak out.
Kelly’s side of things is sort of that “in-betweener” within the whole story as she also faces scrutiny for speaking out against President Donald Trump, during his campaign, and is forced to pick sides when Carlson’s Bombshell causes other women to speak out. Theron is phenomenal as the iconic former Fox News anchor and puts in another chameleon-like performance that really does feel like you’re watching a woman on the high-wire. With Kelly receiving flak from Fox supporters for her hard questioning against Trump and scrutiny for not immediately siding with supporters of Ailes when Carlson’s allegations come out. Throughout the film, there’s this claustrophobic vibe that always comes with seeing how much Kelly is put into a chokehold because of how the media and other employees are pushing her to either take a stance or not speak up. Theron really makes you feel like you’re in the whirlwind with her and her build-up to speaking out comes off very genuine and real.
I also appreciated how the film takes its own stance on the subject of sexual assault and speaking out with how it treats Kelly, Carlson, and others that didn’t speak out sooner. In a great exchange between Kelly and Kayla, there’s a great point brought by Kayla about women not speaking out earlier and how they could’ve saved plenty of other women from suffering by doing so. There’s even some great discussion about what speaking out does and how it affects not only the person speaking out, but also those around them. The film still contains the idea of not being afraid to speak out, which is great, but I love how it also the complexity and complications behind the entire situation – especially with Kayla’s story.
Kayla, who is not based on any specific Fox employee, but rather a culmination of women abused in Fox’s toxic environment, definitely has the strongest and most emotionally impactful story of the entire film. Her nativity towards the situation she walks into, hoping to make a name for herself through her own efforts, makes what happens to her all that much more real and the scene of her and Ailes in his office is gives viewers disgusting chills throughout their whole body. Her story is one that, unfortunately, many know all too well and her arc is actually very empowering, and Robbie sells every second of it perfectly. The friendship she has with a fellow co-worker, Jess Carr (Kate McKinnon), is actually another great aspect of her story and displays how toxic their work environment really is. Jess has secrets of her own that she has to keep in order to be able to work at Fox News and the friendship the two have really is a great aspect in showing how dire their situations are and how it stems back to Ailes being in power.
Performances aside, Bombshell feels all too familiar in how it tells its story and makes some choices that just feel unnecessary. Personally, I could’ve done without Theron pulling double duty as the narrator of the film and the fourth-wall breaks are just so familiar to films like The Big Short. There are some nice moments where real interviews and quotes are pulled into the film to add some realism to the film, like sound bites where real-life victims get their voices heard, but its hard not to feel like the film’s intentions of keeping it real can affect the overall experience. The film can feel slow at times and while I can appreciate the film trying to showcase all of the players involved at Fox News, the constant barrage of names and titles can be very distracting.
Bombshell may have some familiarity in how it tells its story, but it still manages to be engrossing and impactful in how it shows the power that Ailes had and the toxic work environment that he created at Fox News. There’s already been plenty of award buzz surrounding the film’s trio of leading ladies that totally warranted and, in my opinion, Theron and Robbie have a strong chance to have an Oscar win in their future.