Bombshell (2019)

Director: Jay Roach
Writer: Charles Randolph
Cast: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow, Allison Janney, Malcolm McDowell, Kate McKinnon, Connie Britton, Liv Hewson, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Rob Delaney, Mark Duplass, Richard Kind
Seen on: 26.2.2020

Content Note: Sexual Harassment

Fox News is ruled by Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) who has, over the decades, found many women he made news anchors – like Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) and Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman). And hopeful new anchors like Kayla (Margot Robbie) know that they need Ailes to get to the top. In the middle of the 2016 presidential election campaign, Gretchen Carlson is preparing for battle: she has been quietly demoted for a while now – and she has been collecting evidence of Ailes’ sexual harassment against her, in the knowledge that she surely isn’t the only one he has harassed.

Bombshell suprised me a little – in a positive way – because it doesn’t withdraw into the safety of an apparently neutral “both sides” position, but takes a stand. I did still struggle with some things, but overall, it’s really good.

The film poster showing Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie), Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) and Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron).

I was afraid that the film would maybe gloss over the despicable politics of Fox News to make the women who work there more sympathetic, but fortunately that’s not the case. In fact, they make an explicit point of showing how their programs are crafted to “frighten and titillate”, how fact checking and sourcing is optional and how embroiled the top management is with the Republican party and Trump in particular.

They also don’t make the other mistake I was afraid of – that they would pretend that the sexism and systemic toxicity was over and done with once Ailes was gone. There, too, they make a clear point that Ailes may have been particularly despicable, but things don’t really change in any meaningful, systemic way. It’s also shown that there was an actual investigation had more to do with a power struggle between Ailes and the Murdochs and less with any interest in the harassment. Plus, he and O’Reilly ultimately got more money paid when leaving than all of their harassment victims together. So, yeah, something was won here, but the victory has its limits.

The one scene were they explicitely show the abuse is handled very well, too. It is highly uncomfortable, even though “nothing much happens”, showing that you don’t need much for a situation to become abusive. It also proves yet again what a great actress Robbie is.

Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie), Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) and Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) in an elevator.

I’m not really familiar with the FOX news anchors, so I can’t say if Kidman and Theron were accurate in their portrayal (from what I gather from people who know the answer is yes, though). They were very good, though, even if their make-up (to make them look more like the women they play) was distracting for me, though. I think it would have been better if they had let them look more like themselves. Lithgow’s make-up was better and felt more real.

There is some fourth-wall-breaking and it feels a little heavy-handed sometimes. Not too much, fortunately, and it does serve the good purpose to make things a little lighter (as does Kate McKinnon), giving the film and the audience a little (necessary) air to breathe and rounding off my overall very good impression of the film.

Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) and her staffer Lily (Liv Hewson).

Summarizing: Good.

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