BOMBSHELL

★★★

AN IMPORTANT YET UNINSPIRED LOOK AT FOX NEWS’ SEX SCANDAL

THEATRICAL REVIEW
By Chris dos Santos
16th December 2019

2013's 'The Wolf Of Wall Street' is one of those films that I don't think we realise how big its impact is. First off, its trailer with Kayne West's 'Skinhead' changed trailers forever; so many trailers now have a popular song with quick cuts of scenes from the film. Remember when every trailer had a Kayne West song? 'Power Rangers', 'Assassin's Creed', 'The Girl On The Train', 'The Great Gatsby'... the list goes on for longer then I'd like to admit. But the way Martian Scorsese broke down something as confusing as the American stock market and made a funny, captivating, fourth-wall-breaking biopic is something quite legendary - so much so that Adam McKay has copied him twice, to varying degrees of success. 'Bombshell' aims to lighten its subject material by borrowing from Marty once again.

Fox News, a media empire for the right. We all have our own opinions on the cable network, even here in Australia. For years, the women who worked there were subjected to various degrees of sexual assault by founder Roger Ailes (John Lithgow, 'Daddy's Home 2', 'Pitch Perfect 3'), but when veteran anchor Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman, 'Aquaman', 'Boy Erased') is fired - something she has been anticipating for months - she files a lawsuit against Roger. At the same time, Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron, 'Long Shot', 'Tully'), the first women with a primetime show on the network, has the public eye on her due to her "attacking" soon-to-be President Donald Trump at a rally, leading him to tweet negativity about her, which boosts Fox News' ratings to all-time high. Trump supporters are tuning in to fuel their hate fire, but Megyn has some secrets about Roger that could change everything. Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie, 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood', 'I, Tonya') is new at Fox News and hopes to be on air soon, but soon learns about the horrible things taking place at the network.

'BOMBSHELL' TRAILER

The performances - especially Theron and Robbie - are transcendent; they are impressively captivating. Theron completely transforms into Megyn Kelly, but all three leads deserve everything they get this awards season. Often miscast Kate McKinnon ('Yesterday', 'Ghostbusters') feels really well placed here, and I'd like to see her in more dramas because she's a really good dramatic actress when given the right material. Allison Janney ('I, Tonya', 'Spy') on the other hand was an interesting choice - she has a thick Boston accent that does not work, and for such a small role it wasn't really worth casting her.

While the acting is remarkable, the rest of the film is weak.

First off, this film should have been directed and written by women; was every single one busy? While there is nothing horrible about the direction, you can feel it's not being told from the right voice that a story this intense needs, and that's really unfortunate. 'Bombshell' doesn't shock in the way it should - it simply reminds people that this happened and is still happening without really pushing the viewer emotionally. The film is empowering but not motivating; when these women stand up it's moving, but that's thanks to the Me Too movement and not the film itself, and I do think 'Bombshell' should have been more than that.

The film opens with Charlize Theron's character explaining to us in 'The Wolf of Wall Street' fashion how Fox News works. breaking the fourth wall and telling the audience what the different floors mean and giving us an insight into the controversial network. However, the fourth wall breaking isn't a strong through-line throughout the entire run time. The film is shot ascetically like an episode of 'The Office' (looks to camera and all), and we get a few really creative uses of breaking the fourth wall. One particularly good scene sees a man from Fox News take out a new female worker and suggests sex as a means for her to go on air; we get to hear her inner monologue as she works out what he is trying to do to her. Another good example was where we hear the real testimonials from six victims and the film simply has their photo on screen along with their voices; it was really powerful.

This film should have been directed and written by women; was every single one busy? While there is nothing horrible about the direction, you can feel it's not being told from the right voice that a story this intense needs, and that's really unfortunate.

Making a film so American is always a challenge for international appeal, especially when a film like 'Bombshell' has so many big names behind it and has to be a worldwide success. While we all know about Fox News and how bad it is, it's still a very foreign area for a lot of people. The film could have tapped into more fourth wall-breaking insights to help out non-American viewers.

Before any production logos, the film opens with the disclaimer, "While the film is based on a true story, names have been changed and character added. Things have also been changed for dramatic effect." This kind of thing is a given with biopics - no film can be fully factual, as it still has to follow as a film structure and have a captivating story. But seeing this right at the forefront was an interesting choice and I wondered why. Margot Robbie's character, Kayla Pospisil, was created for the film, which is really interesting considering her character's arc in the film. Being the newest person on the team, she becomes the most recent woman to be assaulted by Roger, as well as being a lesbian working for Fox News. It makes for a really interesting story as she hides her personal life to fit into her work environment and how she comes to terms with that. But finding out this was created for the film does take away from the impact of some of her scenes. Nonetheless, Robbie's performance is still one to be talked about.

The first trailer for the film, with the three leads in the elevator, is one of my favourite trailers of 2019. Going in, I was very excited to see that scene play out, and while it is the big shift from Act 1 to Act 2, it's not as epic as the trailer implies, in terms of editing not in terms of story.

And that's almost the best way to sum up 'Bombshell': a story that needs to be remembered and told, yet the film we got is good but not great. While all the acting is phenomenal - especially the leads - and makeup fantastic, the story, filmmaking and editing are uncreative and thus fail to hit the home run that this should have been. Having said that 'Bombshell' is still one to watch, if only to be reminded of what is still happening to women today - not just in Hollywood, but all around the world.

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