Bombshell (2019)

“News is like a ship. You take your hands off the wheel and it pulls hard to the left.”

Bombshell is a precise film. The blocking has been staunchly rehearsed, the makeup & costuming are spot on, and the main characters come across as authentic people rather than mere facsimiles of on-air personalities. Better yet, this story – a compellingly rich news network drama on the surface – is unafraid to cast blame and to point fingers at the people committing the crimes and doing the wrongs. Bombshell unfolds like a horror film in broad daylight, with a monster whose scare tactics are that of devious power. And it stands with the people who have the courage to fight back.

It’s important for a picture as politically charged as Bombshell to start off on the right footing, and so the obvious one to segue us into this world is Fox News’ past golden girl Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron). Brilliantly, Kelly talks directly to us as if we’re still on the receiving end of her broadcast, saunters through the network studios, the countless cubicles, navigating floors separating on-air talent from the higher ups, and this choice imparts an immediate tone full of journalistic transparency. It gives the picture the look and the feel of a human interest piece. Maybe that’s because it is.

A powerful shot finds Kelly, Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) and Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie playing an amalgamation of multiple women) all in the the same elevator, with their hand placement showing their inner emotions. They’re all wanting to climb to the top, and terrified knowing who they’ll have to meet once the doors open. This trio of blonde bombshells, all with hair parts showing darker shades of who they really are off camera, have shared sexual assault experiences with Fox News CEO Roger Ailes (John Lithgow). In the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s most recent trial, shuffling along with a walker and looking decrepit, seeing Lithgow do the same as Ailes under awards worthy makeup only makes the film’s toxicity more believable and pungent. The stink remains even after the air – and the source of the putrid stench – has supposedly been cleared.

In one of the year’s most chilling scenes, the spunky Kayla talks her way into a meeting with Roger. Fox News is like religion to her Christian conservative family, and a possible promotion to the network’s top program “The O’Reilly Factor” has her giddy. But what takes place behind closed doors turns her upside down and shakes her pockets of any leftover naivety. Roger asks her for a spin, to hike up her dress. Higher. More. Higher. Panties now aired while Kayla’s eyes shut out the terror. It’s an incredibly powerful and disturbing series of events, and it exposes the monstrous mannerisms of powerful men who see themselves as invincible and women as interchangeable. Bombshell ends too abruptly to really resonate on its on terms, especially given the outstanding performances and the steady pacing from director Jay Roach. I think that choice is intentional though. After all, there’s bound to be more to come. This is just first breaking story of a news cycle ready to take society by storm as long as we’re willing to listen.

“I want this behavior to stop.”

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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