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A group of women take on Fox News head Roger Ailes and the toxic atmosphere he presided over at the network.

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

Directors: Jay Roach
Writers: Charles Randolph

The events depicted in Bombshell only happened a couple of years ago and with Donald Trump still the President of the United States with an impeachment trial kicking off this week, it’s very evident while watching how recent the film’s events are. However, the rather fun and stylistic approach that director Jay Roach applies to the film is an odd-tone for the subject matter. 

On July 6, 2016, formed Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) filed a sexual harassment lawsuit again the then President of Fox News, Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) who quickly rebutted the claims and slandered them as lies. Meanwhile, at Fox News, these events caused a ripple effect of events for many including younger interns who had been or were being, harassed by Ailes at the time which is represented by the fictional character of Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie). At the centre of the film is Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) who has just gone through a year of turmoil after questioning Donald Trump’s treatment of woman and getting his squad of Twitter harassers sent after her in response and she now deals with the question of joining those coming forward about Ailes or staying silent to protect herself and those around her. 

Bombshell has too many characters to give any the deep dive they each deserve in their own way. The film tries to focus on being solely about the events that caused Roger Ailes to eventually be dismissed from his job at Fox News, but it’s unfocused on how to get there. Gretchen Carlson, you would think, should be at the centre of that story but she is oddly sidelined quickly after she presents the case against Ailes. The Kayla character is an interesting devout Fox News fan attempting to make her dream job come true, but there’s not enough screen time here to dive into that character. Megyn Kelly is the main focus, which is an odd decision of framing for the story as I mentioned. The problem isn’t so much who the film chose to focus on, but instead that the film has too many potentially interesting leads and doesn’t give enough to any of them. 

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Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and John Lithgow all received some fantastic and scary prosthetic and makeup work to portray their real-life counterparts. Theron with her performances is the most successful of the three at becoming Kelly in looks and sound with the walk and talk of Megyn Kelly tuned in perfectly. Kidman‘s chin or neck, something there became oddly distracting with a prosthetic I believe, although I couldn’t pin-point what exactly was giving annoying me. John Lithgow is plumped up in a fat suit alongside the prophetic and makeup effects to great effect. 

Margot Robbie escapes the routine her co-stars must have gone through every day before shooting as the fictional character Kayla but delivers a solid performance that could have been the focus of the film. She shares screen-time with co-worker Jess (Kate McKinnon), a secret Hillary Clinton supporter and lesbian working at Fox which offers one of the film’s more intimate, interesting and oddly most real-feeling scenes between the two fictional characters. 

With Charles Randolph as the screenwriter, you get the fast-paced and fourth-wall-breaking moments that The Big Short also brought, but Jay Roach is seemingly too interested in making the Randolph screenplay as close to the style used by Adam McKay in The Big Short that it comes off like an attempted sit-in for McKay behind the camera. 

What is most disappointing with Bombshell is just how light the material is treated. Viewers should be disgusted watching the film, Roger Ailes was a bad man and that’s not up for debate, yet the film is pulling its punches. You don’t need to show in detail what Roger Ailes coerced a lot of these young women into doing for job security, but the implication needs to be truly unsettling and although one scene with Kayla is disgusting to watch, it’s the only one that gets there before going back to the more pop-film storytelling. 

There are strong performances in Bombshell, all three stars are currently some of the best in the business without a doubt and Charlize Theron, in particular, is unrecognisable here, but the film’s unfocused script and attitude in telling this story don’t sit well for me.