Movie Review: Bombshell

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3 stars

R |

Director: Jay Roach

by Jason Koenigsberg

Bombshell is a “straight from the headlines” movie, one that was made from recent current events. It tells the story of a toxic work environment for women at Fox News under the leadership of Roger Ailes with sexual harassment running rampant and a culture of silence that enabled it. Bombshell opens up with narration by Charlize Theron as Fox News reporter Megyn Kelly then the first shot shows Theron on a Fox News monitor from a control room. This film continues the trend of using real footage with actors mixed in to blend fact and fiction. What follows after the opening shot are the laziest opening credits in recent years as Charlize Theron breaks the fourth wall and immediately talks directly to the audience telling them about the history and structure of Fox News as well as painting an unflattering picture of the President/C.E.O. Roger Ailes. Director Jay Roach who helmed Austin Powers (1997) and Meet the Parents (2000) has some experience directing political dramas with the HBO films Recount (2008) and Game Change (2012) which were both smart, compelling, and informative. But with Bombshell he starts off aping the style of Adam McKay with the tongue in cheek comedic approach McKay used in his films The Big Short (2015) and Vice (2018). Then something happened around the twenty minute mark. The characters stopped breaking the fourth, it stopped trying to be cute and clever with its style and it started to just let the actors do the heavy lifting. From that point on Bombshell became a much more interesting actors showcase and a much better movie. 

Charlize Theron is superb as Megyn Kelly and so is Nicole Kidman as Gretchen Carlson. They both evoke the real life subjects they are portraying and leave just enough of their own signature on the characters to allow their charisma to shine through. John Lithgow is a consummate actor and under a fat suit and lots of latex he revels as the villainous boss of Fox News Roger Ailes. Bombshell makes Fox News look bad, really bad, but it makes Roger Ailes look even worse as a deviant, paranoid sexual predator. It also makes the fanatical viewers of Fox News look barbaric as right wing, war mongering, xenophobic, and chauvinist. An angry mob that are pro gun and anti-women. It reinforces the fact that this a man’s world and girls have to be sexy to be on television even if it the news since Roger Ailes constantly reminds us news is a “visual medium”. The movie goes into the secret regulations that women have to follow in the workplace that transcend Fox News. They play by the men’s rules. By the end of Bombshell the viewer will think that people who work for Fox News are all monsters or caught in a situation where they need the paycheck. Bombshell makes it clear that Fox News only cares about controversy and ratings. The network promotes propaganda and the politics of fear. The women in this workplace are trapped and have to conform to survive and keep their jobs. It paints the Fox News headquarters as a quintessential toxic work environment for women. 

The problem with Bombshell is that it never goes beyond what liberals probably already think about Fox News. This movie pats them on the back, and are any conservatives that religiously watch Fox News going to pay to see Bombshell? Of course not. So who is this movie for? It enhances what liberals already know and Fox News watchers will shun Bombshell as much as they would a Hillary Clinton rally. Plus, as you watch this movie you can hear the Republican talking points as the action is taking place on screen. Trump supporters will say this is a character assassination on the President and Roger Ailes, that this movie is fake news. They can argue that all of the dialogue and events are just lies and hearsay, that there is no real evidence. I am sure great liberties were taken to make this story into a two hour movie. Most of us will never really know what went on behind closed doors at Fox News but we can assume what happened based on these firsthand accounts. Bombshell starts off painfully tongue in cheek, then turns into an actors movie where the performances are allowed to shine and they sell the movie. It never explores the themes further or goes deeper into what this type of workplace does to the female psyche. Unless someone is completely ignorant to US politics they are not going to learn anything. The final result is a good movie that never achieves greatness but is worth checking out especially for viewers that are on the fence of the political divide in our country and the media bias that promotes it. 

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