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Film Review: Bombshell (2020)

Bombshell (2020) is an American drama retelling the true story of Megyn Kelly and her experience of being a female journalist at Fox News. Directed by Jay Roach, this film has a star-studded cast list including Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie and John Lithgow. When Gretchen Carlson (Kidman) decides she wants to sue the head of Fox News, Roger Ailes (Lithgow) for sexual assault, stories from Megyn Kelly (Theron) and Kayla Pospisil (Robbie) start to tell more about Ailes and his allegations.

This is a film that truly shows the impact of actors and what their performance can do to a film. All three of the main girls, as you can expect, are spectacular here as they each get their moment to shine. Charlize Theron is unrecognisable as Megyn Kelly, not only thanks to the incredible makeup work done but also her performance which helps bring the character to life. Margot Robbie takes some time to settle into her role, mainly down to how Kayla is written to begin, but her big moments create huge impact and it is hard not to be drawn to her by the end of the film.

I am surprised that not many people are talking about John Lithgow and the impact of his performance, but his role may be the most pivotal in the role. Lithgow has to balance a sense of power and likeability in his role that many people originally saw in the real Roger Ailes, yet also portray the true horrors that he can show as well. This may also be the film that makes me appreciate Kate McKinnon as an actress, as I really enjoyed what she had to offer. Seeing her take on a role like this is really refreshing and I appreciate the bold choices she made with this performance, almost exposing a part of herself to her character.

The editing of this film held a nice balance between style and narrative, which I very much appreciated. Unlike previous films of this format like Vice, this film never steered too far away from the serious subject matter and always tried to keep the audience connected to the story. This film uses some archival footage and audio to help flesh out the narrative and it was done seamlessly and with great effect. I found these moments to blend together nicely, not feel forced or shoved down the audience’s throat. A majority of films that are being heavily pushed for awards season drag their films on for over two hours, which can sometimes hurt a film. Not with Bombshell. Keeping the film at a sweet 100 minutes meant that everything felt concise and nothing was overdramatised or dragged out.

As a film with the subject matter of sexual assault, this film does handle some really tough topics and does showcase one sequence of sexual assault. I applaud the filmmakers for not only showing it happen, but also handling it the way that they did. Instead of going for the loud and dramatic method of having it be an act of sex or violence leading to it, they instead use the power dominance and one smaller yet still horrifying moment to highlight the characters’ motives and behaviour.

Having said all that, there are some major issues with the film and that does come down to the script presented here. Some of the characters, particularly Kayla, come off as caricatures to begin and feel one-dimensional. She is only there to serve a narrative purpose and never truly feels like a fleshed-out character, with most of the development focused on Megyn Kelly. A lot of the staff also feel one-dimensional, either to support or to be against the accusation of Roger. It is hard to feel the struggles of the staff at Fox News when they do not show any progression outside of Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson.

This film wants to make an important statement and make audiences aware of the struggles working at Fox News at that time, and yet there are some decisions I really did not like. There seemed to be some shaming of feminism, where even the women of the film were constantly stating that they were not part of the movement. All the positive messages about women and their confidence kept getting shoved back, continually trying to push a message that they were all about their body and sexuality. Yes, the message of women standing up to sexual harassment is important, but sadly it felt more like standing up to the Fox News corporation rather than standing up for themselves, and that message could have been portrayed a lot better.

3/5

Have you had a chance to check out Bombshell yet? How much did you know about Megyn Kelly before the film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section and let’s have a discussion.

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