Howdy y’all! Barbarella here to share my love of BOMBSHELL, a film that manages to illuminate a serious issue without feeling like a preachy After School Special. Director Jay Roach’s film transports us to the summer of 2016, when powerful Fox News CEO Roger Ailes is about to get a lesson in consequences for one’s actions.
While the film attempts to avoid getting too political, it does include the conflict between Trump and Megyn Kelly that occurs during this timeframe and shares some opinions on the events of the day, the people involved, the network, and its viewers. This will likely offend some Fox fans. They may also dislike a character played by Kate McKinnon, although she does add some much-needed levity to the story. At its core, though, this isn’t a film about Republicans versus Democrats, Trump, or even Fox News, exactly. It’s a film about men in power and of women trying to achieve success in the extremely competitive world of television. It reminds women that in the “visual medium,” their most important asset is their sex, and that men in power will more often than not exploit this.
At the film’s onset, Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) explains to us viewers how things at Fox work. Charlize, through her voice and mannerisms, transforms so completely into Megyn Kelly that it’s easy to forget Charlize is the one on screen. Bright-eyed hopeful, Kayla Pospisil, played beautifully by Margot Robbie, has a completely different take on Fox News, and she can’t wait to meet the man in charge, Roger Ailes. John Lithgow’s portrayal of the television mogul unsettles me to my core, making me think I might rather confront the Trinity Killer (Lithgow’s role in Showtime’s Dexter) than Ailes. I once had a guy at work come up behind me, reach both arms around me, and grab my breasts, one in each hand. He did it as if it were some kind of joke, and I laughed it off because he was a coworker with whom I was friends, and I liked him. But, it was weird, and I felt weird afterwards. I bring this up because the scene when Kayla first meets Ailes disturbs me more than my coworker so blatantly copping a feel. John Lithgow’s facial expressions in this scene entirely creep me out. I don’t know how long it will be before I can watch him in something without thinking about it and cringing. I suspect it could be a while. After all, it took me years to be able to see Walton Goggins in any role without getting mad at him for things his character Shane had done on FX’s The Shield. Years, I’m telling ya!
If you think I’m done talking about casting, I’m not. I can’t rave about this film without raving about Nicole Kidman. As I watch her portraying Gretchen Carlson, I keep thinking how remarkable she is. During this film, I realize that I have been underrating her for ages. It’s not as though I haven’t seen her do great work in great films before. Yet, for some reason, I don’t think I’ve ever given her much consideration until now. I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to appreciate her, but I realize I need to find time to go back and re-watch all of her performances because clearly, I haven’t been paying enough attention.
BOMBSHELL is an indictment, not of Fox News per se, but of sexual harassment. It provides insight into how different women handle or perceive similar situations. I love the powerful statement this film makes, and that it makes it without being depressingly somber the whole time. I have no lofty ideas that this film will change the world. If all the corporate, mandatory sexual harassment training doesn’t make a difference in the workplace (and it doesn’t), a big-budget film won’t either. At least it lets the world see a little of what it means to be a woman dealing with this stuff, and to me that’s something significant.