It was a watershed moment. An unprecedented, monumental part of modern history that is still to this day sending shockwaves through the world and many still cannot quite fathom how it was allowed to happen. Bombshell, if you didn’t know already, tells of the sexual harassment scandals that swept through Fox News in the last few years and the stories of the women involved, mainly anchor’s Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) and Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman), the latter of which was the first to step forward and speak up.
The perpetrators were many when all said and done, but it was head honcho Roger Ailes (John Lithgow), who Carlson brought to the fore, rightly and bravely, and countless women have come forward since, with the film adding the fictional Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie) as something of an amalgamation of many of those affected. It’s impact of modern society, on news and media, on cinema, on the world is still being felt today and yet the solutions feel further away than they did when this all came out. Our society needs change, and fast, but sadly Bombshell doesn’t help the cause much at all, in fact it too sets it back when it should be helping to lead a new charge.
Parallels have already been made with this one and the likes of The Big Short and Vice, both directed by Adam McKay in his frantically, high-octane paced, fourth-wall-breaking irreverence and within the first few minutes it is easy to see why: how can we make a somewhat absurd, unthinkable and consequently disastrous event from modern history interesting?
For those aforementioned films, it worked as such was the nature of those stories, the absurd nature of them, and how those involved were able to get away with such heinous crimes and go relatively unpunished that they lent themselves to absurdist humour.
Bombshell, though, isn’t absurd. At all. What happened was appalling and unequivocally evil and trying to make light of them, even slightly, is an injustice to all those affected. The intentions are noble, particularly from its cast who fully support and bring life to those who were affected by the atrocities, but you wonder whether something less showy, less fast and furious narrative style and more serious to thought-provoking would have been prudent.
Instead, we get something that’s slapdash and disjointed, too eager to please everyone rather than telling the story as it should be told. Jay Roach is decent enough filmmaker, but this is a case of wrong director for the wrong script and it shows. This screamed for women behind the camera to go with those in front, that’s not Roach’s fault but surely this was a no-brainer.
Indeed, all those erroneous choices bleed into the cast who seem to be knocked off-kilter with what they are working from, with a usually reliable cast stumbling their way through the uneven tones and storylines. Kidman and Robbie both try in vain to bring something to the table but while neither are less than good, both are sidelined for the most part (Kidman’s Gretchen Carlson unforgivably so) whilst even the great John Lithgow, buried beneath endless prosthetics and make-up playing Ailes, is left gasping for air.
It’s only Theron who makes an impact (she does have the most screen time for the three, mind you) as Kelly, graceful and strong-willed, but wasting such a cast who want change as much as we do, is such a shame. There’s some good here, noble even, but sadly this isn’t going to help change the way it should.
Drama, True Story | USA, 2019 | 15| 17th January 2020 (UK) | Lionsgate Films | Dir.Jay Roach | Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow, Kate McKinnon, Allison Janney, Connie Britton