Thursday, December 19, 2019


Bombshell offers a matter-of-fact, but ultimately not all that illuminating, look at the sexual harassment at FOX News under Roger Ailes (John Lithgow). The film primarily focuses on three woman (Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, and Margot Robbie), only one of whom we see Ailes abuse his power to manipulate and harass (Robbie, in the film's best, and most skin-crawling and heartbreaking, scene). Undercutting the film's moral stance more than a little is the fact that the focus of the lawsuit that kicked-off the media storm that eventually led to Ailes departure was less about Gretchen Carlson (Kidman) being harassed and more about seeking revenge for her dismissal from the network due to creative differences.

While Theron gets far more screentime, Robbie steals the film as the naive Kayla Pospisil just starting out in the business who gets a harsh reality check at how things are done. Kate McKinnon has an intriguing role as her friend/lover whose balance of being a lesbian Democrat working at Fox News is actually far more interesting material than most of what is explored over the course of the film surrounding Ailes and the lawsuit. Lithgow is properly slimy as seedy Ailes who is incapable of admitting he's done anything wrong.

Written by a man (Charles Randolph) and directed by a man (Jay Roach) the film is decidedly lacking a female voice, a limitation which is even more magnified whenever Robbie isn't on-screen given the more man-ish depictions of Carlson and Megyn Kelly (Theron). Although the script goes after Ailes, it chooses to paint the woman as at least culpable in what was happening at Fox News rather than victims of Ailes' abusive of power. Both Carlson and Kelly are led by secondary motives, seeking monetary compensation or a juicy news story, rather than the need to expose the truth or prevent the treatment from continuing any further. In truth, the film is more interested in exposing and attacking Fox News in general, and Ailes in particular, that offering a a more dramatic take on how events effected these women's lives which, whether or means to or not, trivializes the events which should be an uncomfortable and maddening look at what was allowed to continue for far too long.

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