Thursday, 29 July 2021

Bombshell (2019)

A film about the eventual, and long overdue, downfall of Roger Ailes, the man at the very top of the ladder at the Fox News HQ for many years, Bombshell plays out with some very interesting points that don’t just target the abuser at the heart of the story. It is also about toxic work environments and the repercussions of not taking a stand sooner, although that is a lot easier said than done (for many reasons).

Nicole Kidman is Gretchen Carlson, a presenter at Fox News who knows her days are numbered. She is too old now, apparently, and has taken a stance on certain subjects that has angered Ailes (John Lithgow). Once she is fired, Carlson decided to sue Ailes, bringing up his problematic (to put it mildly) behaviour with the female staff. Many employees rally round Ailes, showing a unified front, but there’s a notable silence from one of the top channel stars, Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron). While all this is going on, Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie) has just started her employment with the company, and soon finds out exactly how she is supposed to act around certain people. 

Written by Charles Randolph, who was also a co-writer on The Big Short screenplay, the first thing you may notice about Bombshell is . . . how similar it is to The Big Short. The character played by Theron introduces viewers to the situation, and the world shown, by breaking the fourth wall, and there are some tangents that rapidly and clearly explain how the company structure works, and what the main policies were.

Director Jay Roach makes life easy for himself by casting well, all treated perfectly by the hair and makeup people, and doing well by the script. Everything moves along well enough, but certain lines of dialogue and individual moments are given the time and space needed to really sink in.

Theron, Kidman, and Robbie are all excellent, playing women at very different levels within the very sexist structure of Fox News, as dictated by Ailes, whether their position is to do with age, experience, savvy, or all of those things. Lithgow is excellent in his role, bullish and arrogant, and very often completely repugnant, even before the level of his abuse of his position is made apparent. The supporting cast includes some great performers, such as Allison Janney, Kate McKinnon, Connie Britton, Liv Hewson, Rob Delaney, and Mark Duplass. Not everyone works though. Richard Kind, for example, doesn’t feel close enough to Rudy Giuliani (although my view has maybe been tainted by seeing how far I think Giuliani has fallen in recent years). Generally, however, the cast feel like a good fit.

The people to blame for abuse are abusers, and Bombshell doesn’t lose sight of that fact. But it also shows the importance of speaking up against those who are abusing power, despite the potential consequences. Because someone has to lead the way, someone has to try their hardest, if only to help warn others, and Bombshell is as much about the need to act and speak out, even if things thankfully didn’t go as far as you worried they would, as it is about Ailes and the power that had him thinking he could act however he wanted. 


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