Film Review – Bombshell (2019)

Title – Bombshell (2019)

Director – Jay Roach (Trumbo)

Cast – Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow, Allison Janney, Kate McKinnon, Connie Britton

Plot – The true story of a group of Fox News employees who spoke out against the head of the company Roger Ailes (Lithgow), whose year’s of sexual harassment and workplace misconduct was ignored by the organisation.

“News is like a ship. You take your hands off the wheel and it pulls hard to the left”

Review by Eddie on 12/05/2020

Bombshell badly wants to be another Big Short or to a lesser extent Vice.

Both of those films saw heavy subject matters told with a vitality and verve, which saw the growth of comedy filmmaker Adam McKay making the leap into dramatic storytelling, some how managing to tie together intricate true stories and their various plot points into a palatable feature length runtime.

No doubt inspired by his fellow director, Jay Roach (the man that gave us Meet the Parents and Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery) finds himself in very serious territory as he examines the recent fallout of Fox News head honcho Roger Ailes in the midst of various reports of sexual harassment and mistreatment of women during his reign in the studio doing the bidding of the wealthy Murdoch media empire.

It’s a loaded subject matter, one ripped straight from the headlines of yesterday and it features a stunning cast lead by the always good Charlize Theron as Trump critic and TV reporter Megyn Kelly, Nicole Kidman as pioneering spokesperson of the abuse Gretchen Carlson, Margot Robbie as upstart Fox worker Kayla Pospisil and a near unrecognizable John Lithgow as Ailes, but Roach’s fast-moving expose of the saga never manages to combine all its elements and incendiary documentation into a cohesive or truly gripping whole.

Proceedings start off well with Theron guiding the audience through a quick-fire rundown on how the Fox Studios operate under the ever watchful eye of Ailes, who is like an Orwellian Big Brother, security cameras and all, but from there we’re never gripped by a story that while shocking and horrific, fails to maximize its power to create the dramatic experience this awards baiting exercise was no doubt seeking.

In many ways the film feels as though it has bitten off more than it can chew, with three amazing leading ladies at its core and a beloved industry veteran playing a genuinely vile real-life villain there should’ve been a lot more standout moments throughout the film but it feels like nothing more than a procession of boxes being ticked as we march forward to the films conclusion, one that when it arrives feels like a whimper rather than a bang.

A shame, as Bombshell’s story and its cast of real life characters should make for fascinating viewing, no doubt more likely to be better explored in the documentaries and series that will likely stem from a saga that beggars belief.

Final Say –

Performances are solid and the story important but Bombshell feels like a rather cold and forgettable examination of some recent headline making news, news that should’ve made for a far more gripping and emotional piece of storytelling than we get here.

2 ½ Fox logos out of 5

9 responses to “Film Review – Bombshell (2019)

  1. This film shies away from populist melodrama or SNL sketch, but there’s something to be said for the exploration of a moral vacuum. The thing that I loved was Malcolm McDowell as Rupert Murdoch. If you think back to McDowell in the 1970’s, as the happy-go-lucky Mick Travis in O Lucky Man, the idea of him re-emerging a media mogul who loses his grip on his talent circa 2016 is quite a potent one. I’ve met Murdoch twice and McDowell nails him perfectly here.

    • As an Aussie I couldn’t get past McDowell’s accent! Very interesting that you’ve met Murdoch I imagine that to be quite the experience.
      E

      • The accepts issues didn’t bother me; did you feel it was askew? Rupert Murdoch is often characterised as a cartoon oaf, but he’s got a team/family of real grifters around him and the way he sweeps in and takes-no-prisoners at the end of the film is very much on brand. I remember he was very negative about Fight Cub being a Fox movie; I’d love to know how they got Bombshell made given that I can’t imagine it’s a film Murdoch wants to see himself in.

  2. The conversations/criticisms around this film are ostensibly more thought-provoking than the film itself. I thought the main cast did a fantastic job inhabiting their characters, but I and my friends kept wondering who was the intended audience. Is there a segment of the general public that needed to see a ripped-from-the-headlines film in order to believe the extent of sexual harassment that went on in this company?

    • I felt the film really lacked focused, it had a lot of ideas and players but never combined it all together. I think it was one of those films that thought itself very smart but forgot some of the basics.
      E

      • I’m pretty much in line with y’all here. This could have been a more serious film or more of a parody. It tries to do both and often ends up with the worst of each world. But not always. Lithgow is fascinating and Ailes is treated a lot more fairly than most of the film’s audience likely would have preferred. I understand why Robbie’s Everywoman character was invented, but it didn’t work the way it should have.

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