I don’t watch a lot of Fox News, so I unsurprisingly didn’t know about this major scandal involving several of their women news anchors and a sexual harassment suit against one of their executives Roger Ailes. This is that story.
In 2016, Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) was fired from Fox News and almost immediately filed a sexual harassment claim against the executive in charge, Roger Ailes (played here by John Lithgow). Her case was dependent on others coming forward, so we also follow the story of Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) who has a history with Roger but is hesitant to come forward at the expense of her career. Megyn Kelly is also battling against Donald Trump as he vies for the presidential nomination. We have a third woman that we follow, a fictional character called Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie), who is a proxy for all the young interns who had experiences at Fox News while trying to climb to the top.
We have supporting roles played by Allison Janney, Kate McKinnon, Connie Briton, Mark Duplass, and many more.
The performances here are across the board incredible, which shouldn’t be surprising considering the talent here. Nicole Kidman’s character is responsible for really moving the plot forward, while Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie get to dwell in those moments and really showcase their talents. It’s a killer ensemble and I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of them score Oscar nominations, especially Charlize Theron for her transformation into Megyn Kelly. John Lithgow has a much more devious transformation into the villain of the story and he too really shines.
The movie itself also really works, briskly speeding through these events but smartly slowing down at the perfect times. There’s a lot of breaking the fourth wall narration, similar to how films like The Big Short deliver exposition. This is a huge step forward for director Jay Roach, who began his career directing all three Austin Powers films.
This film also had a struggle from the beginning, in trying to make a film that we sympathize with the struggles of these women, but these women are real icons of Fox News that have often been vocally supportive of the GOP agenda. So how do you make a film focusing on Fox News anchors but manage to appease both left and right leaning audiences? It’s a tightrope but one that I think worked. It doesn’t hide Fox News’ role in pushing Trump into the spotlight but it still manages to make these individuals sympathetic, though not completely innocent.
I don’t usually bring up the music in a film, but I found Bombshell‘s often a cappella background tracks as really interesting.
What doesn’t work?
Like I said, our main characters are real-life anchors that more liberal audiences might have a real distaste for. So if you go in already hating them, even the most sympathetic of stories might fall on deaf ears. Again, I think the movie still put the focus of our disdain on Fox News and Trump, but you may feel like these women were let off the hook for their role in making that happen.
I found Bombshell to be a great story, really challenging and pushing back against political preconceptions. The performances are top notch and the story is very engaging, so most of you should have a good time here. There’s no reason to see it on the big screen, but this should definitely be in your queue for when it hits streaming services. It’ll be in the mix when the Oscar nominations roll around, rest assured.