- Katie Bell
Updated: Jul 21, 2020
BOMBSHELL: did anyone else notice that the title of Bombshell is a double entendre? You probably did...but something that you definitely did not know, is that of all the films I've reviewed thus far (including, Black Christmas, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged and Countdown) this film contains the most effective jump scare. I leapt across my seat, into the person beside me, for the most unnecessary reason...but hey, I guess a successful jump scare deserves brownie points? Even if it did occur in biographical drama...
I digress! Bombshell explores the Fox News sexual harassment lawsuit of 2016; Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) launches a case against Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) after recording a number of inappropriate interactions. The case is contingent upon other women coming forward - enter Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly and Margot Robbie as the fictional journalist, Kayla Pospisil. Ultimately, this film isn't just about the scandal at Fox, it's representative of the treatment of women in the workplace everywhere. It clearly communicates some of the challenges women who'd like to climb the ladder face and highlights the difficulties of some when making the challenging choice to either remain silent and put their career first, or come forward and jeopardise everything they've worked so hard to accomplish.
Part of the problem with this film, is that it unfolds kind of like a series of news stories being reported in chronological order. Indeed, at the very start of the film, Kelly delivers exposition, down the barrel of the lens, detailing what exists on the various floors of the building they are in and how various things work. It's delivered almost like a newscast itself and this is likely done purposefully for stylistic reasons, but in reality, it just adds an element of objectivity to a story where people should definitely empathise.
There certainly are moments in this film that elicit emotions. In the middle of the movie, personal stories are delivered via narration while images of women are displayed on the screen. Adding faces to faceless testimonies, certainly causes them to be more impactful. Additionally, the use of flashbacks and the explicit inclusion of moments of sexual harrassment, causes subjectivity and makes it easier to side with the protagonists. The most effective of these, (for me) is the moment after Rudi Bakhtiar (Nazanin Boniadi) is harassed, and attempts to salvage the relationship with said-harasser by apologising if she's "given him the wrong impression". I was left wondering if I was more angry that she is fired afterwards, or if I was more angry that she had to apologise to him for his deplorable treatment of her. (Side note: the internal monologue used in this scene, is very random and inconsistent with the rest of the film). However, between these emotional moments, we receive what feels like an objective retelling of history. An "and then, and then, and then, and then, and then". It's a story that's important to tell, but perhaps it needed to be told in a different way.
I was genuinely impacted by the performances of both Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie. If not for their respective deliveries, the challenges of choosing between a career and justice, may not have been made as clear. It's easy enough for people removed from the situation to say, "Just tell someone! You have to! For the sake of women everywhere". It's a whole other situation entirely to have to make that decision, knowing full well that another job may not be waiting around the corner. Both Theron and Robbie communicate this well. We see first-hand the moment when Kayla becomes completely powerless to Ailes. The tension is only exemplified by the complete silence in the background. There's no music. No noise. You can feel Kayla's discomfort through the camera. Later, you hear her express shame as she recounts it for a friend, and it's heartbreaking.
I did enjoy the existence of so many Australian cast members. It's not often that you get to watch Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie and the Lawson brothers on the big screen together (some may even say that this occurs never). The only thing that might have made this Aussie entourage better, is if Jack Thompson had played Rupert Murdoch...but then I may never have been able to forgive Jack Thompson, and that would be depressing...also I have no idea what Jack Thompson looks like anymore...but I have faith in him regardless!
In all, Bombshell isn't a bad watch, and it communicates some important social messages. However, I can't shake the feeling that this story could have been delivered in a more rousing and consistent fashion. It's one that I'm very glad I've seen, but not one that I'm likely to add to my DVD collection.