Quick Hit: Uncomfortable to watch, but needing to be told – the Fox News story.
There’s been a recent trend in films that started with The Big Short, where more and more complicated material started being adapted for the big screen. While some of these stories are due to the complicated nature of the material (like The Big Short), there’s another subsection of films that are being adapted because they are morally complicated. Vice, one of last year’s best picture nominations (inexcusably I might add) fits into both of those categories. Bombshell, however, fits into only the morally complicated realm – and it still chooses to break the fourth wall.
The film starts with a pretty excellent setup by Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron), one of the Fox News most famous anchors. It follows her around the studio as it explains the different players throughout the story, including Roger Ailes (John Lithgow), chairman and CEO of Fox News when all the scandals took place. It’s a blazing overview, and Charlize immediately immerses us in the world. The way she talks to us, behind beautiful makeup that really does make her look like Megyn Kelly, emphasizes that it’s almost inconceivable that something like this happened. From there, we’re also introduced to our other main characters: Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) is a reporter who is on the downslide due to her age and unwillingness to continue playing the harassment game. There’s also Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie), a wide-eyed ingénue who only wants to spread the work of the Lord and succeed at Fox News. Unfortunately, she gets roped into the scandal.
The scandal I’m referring to is the upheaval that occurred at Fox News throughout 2015 and 2016 in the heart of the election (Trump is mentioned numerous times throughout the movie). It had to do with the fact that many of the upper echelon at Fox were sexually harassing women in order to allow them to have positions where they could be on the air. It was a sickening scandal that ended up with a payout of multiple contracts (something mentioned in the credits of this film). It’s a bit unfortunate that the movie starts with such a tongue in cheek style. Whereas The Big Short did so in order to make light of something that few people understood, nearly everyone understands that what happened at Fox was wrong, and making light of it cheapens that a bit.
That’s not to say the movie isn’t worth watching. Though there are times that the movie is extremely slow, it also happens to have one of the best makeup jobs that I’ve seen. First, there’s John Lithgow, who doesn’t quite disappear, but Charlize Theron does. Her powerful face is nearly hidden and she truly does get transformed into Megyn Kelly.
Other aspects that make the film worth watching include Kate McKinnon as a lesbian who hides herself in her work, Allison Janney as Susan Estrich, and an incredible emotional scene by Margot Robbie. Robbie’s scene, and her character, was built out of multiple women’s stories about how Roger assaulted them, and it’s presented slowly and carefully by the director here. It’s extremely uncomfortable, and you want to scream for Robbie to run far, far away.
But that doesn’t make up for multiple pacing issues and a thematic crisis, where the film tries to take itself seriously and joke around as well. With a bit more on the cutting room floor, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see this one end up on the Academy Awards a bit more prevalently. Instead, I’m giving it a “C+”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"