Directed by: Jay Roach
Written by: Charles Randolph
Starring: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow, Allison Janney, Malcolm McDowell & Kate McKinnon
Produced by: Charlize Theron, Jay Roach, Charles Randolph, A.J. Dix, Aaron L. Gilbert, Robert Graf, Michelle Graham, Beth Kono & Margaret Riley
Reel Talk - Bombshell (2019)
In a different political climate, Bombshell might just have been a bomb—if it were even made. Instead, this biographical drama is able to rely on its timeliness to bring together a strong cast and crew even if they never quite gel. Despite some great performances and artistic achievements, Bombshell can’t help but feel like a well-cast and well-produced public service announcement.
Loosely based on real-world accounts, Bombshell is a semi-biographical drama that tells the story of three women who take a stand against the systemic sexual harassment and toxic work environment at FOX News under CEO Roger Ailes.
Following the critical, commercial and artistic success of 2015’s The Big Short, darkly comedic biographical dramas tackling current social issues have been in vogue in Hollywood—particularly as the political climate heats up—though none have quite recreated that delectable recipe. 2019’s The Laundromat, for example, was too sanctimonious to be sweet while 2018’s Vice was too satirical to be sumptuous. All of this could, of course, be chalked up to Hollywood’s usual holier-than-thou high-mindedness but the didactic filmmaking has gotten considerably worse as the cheque books of liberal-minded A-listers have gotten considerably fatter.
As such, one could rightly have expected Bombshell to be yet another unpalatable addition to this already nauseating sub-genre but thanks to some powerhouse performances from the likes of Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie, you can enjoy your meal. The cast’s transformation into their real-world counterparts begins with some impressive hair and make-up work that took home Oscar gold at the 92nd Academy Awards but doesn’t end there.
Theron adopted an almost eerie resemblance to journalist Megyn Kelly by replicating her speech and mannerisms. Unfortunately, there isn’t much space in the script for Theron to really show off though she shines in the subtlety. Taking on the less-famed Gretchen Carlson offered Nicole Kidman more opportunity to create a character but she gave us Carlson’s fire and anger which is both relatable and gratifying, almost cathartic. Kidman’s portrayal of strength and resilience does justice to the bravery Carlson displayed in taking a stand against her oppressors and refusing victimhood status.
“Bombshell can’t help but feel like a well-cast and well-produced public service announcement.”
In all of this, however, there is one standout moment—a kind of emotional climax—that belongs to Margot Robbie whose character was fabricated for the story. It’s a moment that sees Robbie’s character open up about the harassment and exploitation that she has suffered and Robbie delivers this well-crafted moment with such vulnerability that she feels exposed right down to the bone. Robbie and Florence Pugh—for her performance in Little Women—were both passed up in the Actress in a Supporting Role category for Laura Dern in Marriage Story for reasons that only the glitterati may understand.
As great as each individual star’s performance is, however, there isn’t enough interaction between the characters to rightly call it a great ensemble performance. And this is where Bombshell falls short. In its direction, it is somehow less than the sum of its considerable parts.