Bombshell (2019). Film review of the drama starring Charlize Theron

Bombshell film Theron Kidman Robbie
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Drama

image four star rating very good lots to enjoy

Film review by Jason Day of Bombshell, the true story of a group of women who took on Fox News head Roger Ailes and the culture of misogyny and sexual harrassment he presided over. Starring Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie.

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Synopsis

Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) is a former lawyer turned hard-hitting news anchor for Fox News, championed by her Donald Trump-supporting boss Roger Ailes (John Lithgow).

Deciding to challenge Trump during a Presidential candidate debate about his treatment of women, she subsequently faces trolling and abuse from him and scrutiny from other news outlets, fracturing her professionalism.

Ailes eventually pulls his support from her around the same time that fellow Fox star Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman), a long-time presenter shunted to a less popular time slot as punishment for complaining about a misogynistic male colleague, is sacked.

Carlson sues the network for prior sexual harassment, knowing that many other women have suffered from Ailes and other men.

Review, by @Reelreviewer

Film poster of Bombshell Theron Kidman Robbie

There’s no audience for that side of the story.

Rupert Murdoch (Malcolm McDowell) in Bombshell (2019).

I’ve got to say one thing first about Bombshell before I talk about other things. One of the opening credits is for a prosthetic make-up artist.

I’ve written before about being knocked sideways by the performances of film actor and occasional supermodel Charlize Theron.

Whether confidently switching between professional politco and party gal in Long Shot (2019) or chilling as a fairytale villainess in The Huntsman: Winters War (2017), Theron is the epitome of versatility.

I’m mindful of not putting myself at odds with the ethos of the movie I’m reviewing, but she is also very beautiful. And it is a terrifying thing for a reviewer to be floored by the acting of a woman who is physically stunning.

I say this not to detract from her talent, because in my opinion Charlize Theron is one of the leading cinema actresses of our day.

But we don’t expect beautiful actresses to be great, or even good.

Vivien Leigh, to cite just one example, was feted for her looks and always struggled to be taken seriously as an actor.

We expect these performers to look impeccable, to have perfect hair and make-up, to be poised and classy, to be remote and troubled yet also accessible (am I sounding like Alfred Hitchcock ?!), but not great actresses. Those women are ‘old’ or…’unattractive’. Aren’t they?

Well the actors in this movie alone buck that view because they pummel their performances without relying on their physicality.

His news is bad news. John Lithgow stars as Roger Ailes in Bombshell (2019).
Image: Lionsgate.

Going back to my first point in this review (the prosthetic make up credit. Come on, keep up!) Theron, with subtle additions to her nose and eyes and chameleon acting, succeeds at being Megyn Kelly and herself at the same time.

It’s the goddamnest thing you’ll see…especially when she does it in the blink of an eye!

The ‘triplicate women’ promotional posters for this film suggest the movie will dwell on a ‘girls together’ narrative but this seduces the viewer into thinking a false sense of security.

“You’re fired!” Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) is ejected from the Dragon’s Den in Bombshell (2019). Image: Lionsgate.

Because Kidman’s character goes it alone, taking on ‘the man’ and struggling to recruit other women to join her suit and setting herself up as a sacrificial lamb on the Fox News altar of skewed public morality.

All three actors play to perfection although Kidman is the bronze medal winner because Theron bags the showier role and Robbie has more psychological depth.

Robbie adeptly proves that irrespective of her external self she is a performer who can dig down and reveal layers of personality.

Margot Robbie and Kate McKinnon in Bombshell (2019). Image: Lionsgate.

Her character is complex. A conservative, outwardly heterosexual ‘dolly bird’ who actually prefers women and is secretly sickened by the atmosphere that pervades her dream employer.

After her rose tinted glasses are snatched away her final scene, where she chucks her security lanyard in the trash, is quietly and pointedly revolutionary, for her and all other women at Fox or beyond.

And before I end conclude the acting superlatives with a singularly feminine feel, just a few words for John Lithgow. Saddled here with the weight of all worldly misogyny, he manages to make Roger Ailes repulsive but also human. There is balance to his performance; the man was a corporate sleaze and massively abused his position, but personally was also capable of deep loyalties and respect.

Also…the filming style, the frenetic, gasp-inducing pace and ‘in your face’ feel of the film apes the TV news production room, the stress, the pressure, the rush. I work in PR for my day job and experience only a bit of this (and on the other side) but…WOW!!!

This is what you know reporters and producers can go through!

I’m undecided on one scene where his character forces Robbie’s to ‘up skirt’. The film is defiantly against women having to ‘prove their worth’ in such ways, but the director lets the audience see her underwear whilst doing what he condemns.

Honesty or hypocrisy? Whatever your view, this is still a film worth seeing because its conversation about how cultured women should value and respect women is one worth having.

For more see the official Bombshell film website.

Cast & credits

Director: Jay Roach. 1hr 49mins/109mins. Annapurna Pictures/BRON Studios/Creative Wealth Media Finance/Denver and Delilah Productions/Lighthouse Management & Media/Lionsgate. (15).

Producers: A.J. Dix, Aaron L. Gilbert, Robert Graf, Michelle Graham, Beth Kono, Charles Randolph, Margaret Riley, Jay Roach, Charlize Theron.
Writer: Charles Randolph.
Camera: Barry Ackroyd.
Music: Theodore Shapiro.
Sets: Mark Ricker.

Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow, Allison Janney, Malcolm McDowell, Kate McKinnon.

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