There has been some criticism over the title of the film that tells the story of the women who brought down Fox News titan Roger Ailes. For some folks, Bombshell is too playful a title in a #MeToo era. While this is at least the fifth Hollywood film to bear this moniker, I think it’s perfectly fitting. The wordplay suits the tone of the film, the women at the center of the story and the scintillating Fox News headlines that have made the media outlet so popular.
Bombshell opens shortly before the first Republican presidential debate in 2015. The chameleonlike (and Oscar-worthy) Charlize Theron as former Fox anchor Megyn Kelly greets the audience, giving the viewer a private tour of the company’s studios and an introduction to the events that are about to unfold. It cleverly draws the viewer in and adds layers of complexity to the characters, including herself and Roger Ailes (played wonderfully by John Lithgow).
Rounding out our bombshell blondes are Nicole Kidman as Fox host Gretchen Carlson and Margot Robbie as Kayla Pospisil, a fictionalized composite character and Fox newbie. Kidman is impeccable as Carlson, who pushes the first domino by filing suit against Ailes after being fired from the network, saying, “Someone has to speak up, someone has to get mad if the situation is going to change.” Robbie’s Kayla is used to great effect as a career-driven, Fox News-loving, self-described evangelical millennial and “influencer in the Jesus space.”
Written by Charles Randolph (Oscar-winning co-writer of The Big Short), Bombshell is bright and quite funny — until it isn’t. Director Jay Roach, who’s gone from the broad comedy of the Austin Powers and Meet the Parents films in the late ’90s and early 2000s to more politically driven dramedies like Trumbo and Game Change in recent years, proves a good match for Randolph’s script.
As for viewers seemingly uninterested in the characters or scenario, you don’t have to like Kelly or Carlson to find the story compelling and compassionate. Neither is portrayed as a victim — they knew the game they were playing, but they also knew when it was time to change the rules of the game.
Ironically, Bombshell is not likely to please the left or the right since it was created with a mainstream audience in mind. If Hollywood really wants to get serious about telling #MeToo stories, it needs to turn the lens on its own players. They’re coming for you, Harvey, and when they do, it’ll be a lot harder to swallow.
Starts Dec. 20 at Grail Moviehouse