An outstanding portrayal of three strong, yet vulnerable women
By Narelle Wood
Bombshell is one of the most important films of this era. Not because it deals with the landmark sexual harassment lawsuit involving Fox News, but because it does so in such a nuanced and complex fashion.
Based on true events, the storyline starts with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly’s (Charlize Theron) interactions with Trump during the Republican Primaries of 2015, before introducing Fox journalist Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) and fictionalised staffer Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie). We quickly learn of Carlson’s intention to pursue legal action for the sexist behaviour and harassment she has endured during her time at Fox, specifically at the hands of Roger Ailes (John Lithgow). Woven throughout Kelly’s and Carlson’s stories, is the story Pospisil and her quest to move from the production team to on-air talent, and the manipulation and abuse of power that this ambition makes her susceptible to.
Each of these storylines are supported by a wide range of both real and fictional characters, including Kelly’s husband Doug Brunt (Mark Duplass), executive producer Gil Norman (Rob Delaney), research staff (Brigette Lundy-Paine, and Liv Hewson,), Kayla’s friend (Kate Mckinnon), as well as Richard Kind as Major Giuliani and Allison Janney as Robert Ailes’ lawyer, Susan Estrich. The responses from Rupert, Lachlan and James Murdoch’s (Malcolm McDowell, Ben Lawson, Josh Lawson respectively) are also woven throughout as they attempt to navigate between making money and protecting Fox’s reputation. The different characters’ responses range from the straight-down-the-line it should never have happened, to there’s no way it did, and everything in between. All of this highlighting the problematic nature of reporting sexual harassment for the victims – shame, embarrassment, fear, anger, relief, and for some, a loss of job, friends, money and respect.
The story doesn’t unfold in a linear fashion. Director Jay Roach cuts between storylines, and snippets from the past – using some archival footage to do so – to help paint a fuller picture of the events leading up to Aile’s demise. What’s intriguing about the film is that there are moments where the camera angles would traditionally objectify women – focusing on their legs, the tight costumes – but the camera never lingers. In doing so Roach manages to highlight the culture at Fox without assigning blames to the victims, instead he raises some really important questions about the complicit nature of all Fox News employees.
Charles Randolph’s script is intelligent and empathetic, capturing seemingly every conceivable perception, creating characters that are likeable one moment and then challenging to watch the next. Pospisil who is clever and kind is also determined and naïve. Even Ailes is given some redeeming features, which highlights how manipulative, creepy and appalling his predatory behaviour was.
Theron, Kidman and Robbie are outstanding in their portrayal of three strong, yet vulnerable women. Theron is so good as Kelly it could have been Kelly herself on the screen. Kidman captures a quiet and calculated anger, while Robbie, yet again, shows just how damn good of an actress she is. In fact the performances across the film are faultless.
Bombshell is not an easy watch, but a necessary one. While the true events may have started a very important conversation, the film keeps this conversation going and adds some new perspectives, especially in a time when people’s behaviour, and understandings about what is acceptable, are being challenged – and rightfully so.
Now playing in cinemas.