When you have a film with Oscar winners including Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman, who star as FOX News anchors Megyn Kelly, and Gretchen Carlson respectively, alongside Oscar nominees John Lithgow and Margot Robbie, who play FOX News founder Roger Ailes and fictional new recruit Kayla Pospisil, the expectations for a sensational movie are understandably sky high.
And the performances from these four are excellent. However, with a script from The Big Short’s Charles Randolph and directed by (Meet The Fockers and Austin Powers) Jay Roach, the movie perhaps plays more for laughs and doesn’t delve deep enough into the culture that allowed Ailes and others to prey on women for decades.
Having watched The Loudest Voice on Stan with my jaw on the floor at how disgusting Ailes behaviour was, Bombshell lets him off lightly, with a line early in the film explaining that on the same day Ailes went off to college his parents separated and when he returned home for holidays, he found strangers were living in his family home, offering up a powerful motive for his lifetime of hard-core conservatism.
We rarely see Ailes without a plate of food in front of him, or badgering attractive young women into doing his bidding, be it wearing a shorter skirt for ratings or suggesting “the only way to get a head is to give a little head.” He’s like a wolf – in wolf’s clothing, and the film never questions the number of associates who were complicit, not to mention the higher up powers who enabled his appalling behaviour, be it by blind eye or ignorance, his lecherous manner seemingly forgiven thanks to the incredible ratings and profits he delivered at the network.
In that respect Bombshell is kind of depressing. Ailes behaviour is not a laughing matter, nor is it isolated, and despite great performances in a mostly entertaining film, the story doesn’t spark in the way it should. Even watching the trailer again it seems the film is marketed as a snappy chick flick to the tune of Billie Eilish Bad Guy, but there doesn’t seem to to be much female empowerment going on. As the film ends a card reads that Fox paid out $50 million to victims of sexual harassment, but $65 million to Ailes and Bill O’Reilly.
BOMBSHELL 3 Stars – “Explosive Performances”