Director: Jay Roach
Starring: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie
Cinematographer: Barry Ackroyd
One of the most fascinating things about filmmaking is how writers and directors so often take inspiration from popular culture and/or current events. Some of the best films are inspired by world history, controversial topics and politics. Jay Roach, most known for his comedy features like the Austin Powers movie series (1997-2002), Meet the Parents (2000) and Dinner for Schmucks (2010) tries his hand at one of the most infamous scandals of 2016 and plasters it on the big screen.
Bombshell details several accounts of sexual harassment committed by Fox CEO Roger Ailes against the many working women of said corporation. It begins with an inside look at the scandal from Gretchen Carlson’s (played by Nicole Kidman) perspective, as she slaps Ailes with a sexual harassment lawsuit just as she leaves the establishment. From this incites a movement in which many women come forward, including popular Fox News correspondent Megyn Kelly, with their own stories to tell.
Given that it was such an intense moment in US history (in recent years), I’m left to wonder why I was so disappointed with Bombshell. It certainly wasn’t the acting because Kidman, Robbie and Theron gave good to great performances and transform into their corresponding characters with ease and conviction. Looking back, the way the film was shot felt a bit tiresome, almost as if this could have easily been a “made-for-TV” special. I doubt that’s what director Jay Roach intended, but there’s no particular style (or substance) to latch onto here.
The format of this feature turns an entertaining script to a film that becomes flash over substance. Like in Adam McKay’s Vice (2018), there’s 4th wall breaking at unusual moments and odd editing decisions. It completely takes away from the storytelling especially considering the film already contains in-and-out narration from Charlize Theron’s Megyn Kelly. But more than that, the film, at times, is quite boring. And any attempt to get audiences engaged or interested in the characters is undercut with poor editing choices.
The production and direction are to blame, in part, because they’re quite bland, and the film as a whole leaves much to be desired. It’s hard to explain, but Bombshell feels empty even though it explores the behind-the-scenes of a major scandal that should be fresh in all of our minds. Because of this, the film left me completely uninterested, and I felt that it just wasn’t for me.
Who is this film for, after all? The truth is, it should be for everyone. We all should be interested in seeing justice served, women standing up for what’s right together, and seeing disgusting abusers get what they deserved. But more than anything, Bombshell just doesn’t work for a lot of people. And that’s because it refuses to show how a long list of the film’s central characters played a part in the habitual harassment of working women behind closed doors. If you’re going to tell the truth, tell the whole truth. But unfortunately, Roach’s feature refuses to, adding to a long list of problems the film already faces.
In the end, if it’s entertainment you’re looking for, Bombshell may be full of it for some. But to expect these ladies to be held under a microscope as they’ve done their harassers is to walk out of the film with heavy disappointment. And that, unfortunately, is the real bombshell.