Fox news anchor Gretchen Carlson (Kidman) decides to sue Fox News founder Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) for sexual harassment, which then inspires fellow anchor Megyn Kelly (Theron) to also reveal her own experiences, leading to many other women that worked at the network to come forward and start a movement that reverberates around the world.
Director: Jay Roach
Writer: Charles Randolph
Starring: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie
From its very opening sequence, it is obvious that screenwriter Charles Randolph co-wrote The Big Short, as we are treated to the same fourth-wall breaking that we were given in that film, and what follows is a similarly unconventionally structured narrative where characters aren’t afraid to turn to the camera. Though it admittedly isn’t quite at the level of The Big Short, even attempting to adopt this approach is certainly audacious, and while The Big Short just about got away with it, Vice not so much (though Randolph had no involvement of that – to my knowledge). Unless a film can truly pull it off, then it can just come across as obnoxious, self-indulgent and smug, and unfortunately Bombshell does predominantly come across this way, and in doing so completely undermines the seriousness of the narrative’s central subject.
Throughout the narrative we get various (real) characters coming and going, in which scenes introduce them while in mid-conversation and they are never seen again, while the editing is quick fire with scenes put together that do not have any real sense of flow or structure. While this may be an appropriate depiction of what it is like to work in a newsroom, it does make Bombshell quite difficult to follow, or indeed watch, making it very difficult to truly care about any of the characters, while also never truly capturing the sense of jeopardy that they apparently experienced.
Another problem with the film is that it has a lot of issues with is what it actually wants to be about, and then seems to have an extremely one-sided agenda of those subjects, but never really deciding which of those said subjects it should primarily focus on. The main central story of what happened at Fox News is of course an important one, as it sheds some light on what is indeed a huge issue in many industries, and of course should be brought to an end instantly. However, Bombshell often forgets about this to make some very cheap political points that are so blatantly one-sided it often makes for intolerable viewing.
Unfortunately Bombshell is yet another film that treats the audience with absolute disdain, by complacently thinking that because it has been labelled as one of the first films of the #MeToo era, that is enough for people to watch it, and for it to win awards without them having to make that much effort. The film not only patronisingly lectures the viewer by telling us that what happened at Fox News was bad (because we obviously didn’t already know that!) but then also tries to lecture the viewer about politics, and this is all presented in a very narrow and one-sided way. There is certainly nothing wrong with films challenging the viewer to think about certain aspects of society, but it needs to be done in a much more intelligent, measured and balanced way than the lazy way that Bombshell does it.
There is no denying that the three leading performers all deliver great performances, but these are wasted by the poor script that blatantly doesn’t actually care much for their characters, and this is further demonstrated by the script struggling to decide which character to actually focus on; though Nicole Kidman’s Gretchen is the one that takes the biggest risks by being the first to speak out, any focus on this is sacrificed by scenes involving Theron’s character that are used purely as a cheap comment on politics and very little to the actual main story. The ‘money shot’ scene used in the teaser trailer in which all three of the main characters are in a lift (sorry, elevator) together feels very cheap and gimmicky, and just sums up the attitude of the filmmakers. As for the film’s other characters (male and female); they are just hideously underdeveloped and are just very lazy caricatures. This is a very hypocritical, considering one of the film’s main criticisms of the media industry is that it not only treats women like caricatures, but then it expects them to act like stereotypical caricatures when on screen. For every female character that raises a claim against Roger Ailes, there is another (if not more than that) that shows complete support for him. However, the film never even attempts to delve into why they were backing him and just portrays them as deluded idiots, but they may have actually had some potentially interesting reasons for backing him.
It is quite possibly the case that there is too much to cover in the running time of a feature film, (the TV series The Loudest Voice that is about the same subject is apparently much better). The fact there has been a TV series about this very same subject so recently does beg the question why this film exists at all. The answer is in my view is that those involved in the making of it actually have very little care for the extremely serious subject that the film should be about, and instead take advantage of it to massage their own filmmaking egos to basically put together some extremely patronising, one-sided political propaganda that completely undermines what the film should actually be about. Though the good performances keep it just about watchable, Bombshell will be forgotten about very quickly.
What should have been a generation defining film that sheds some light on an important issue is actually just a one-sided propaganda piece that has no interest in its central subject; Bombshell is more than just a waste of some great performances.