24th Jan2020

‘Bombshell’ Review

by Alex Ginnelly

Stars: Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow, Allison Janney, Malcolm McDowell, Kate McKinnon, Connie Britton, Liv Hewson, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Rob Delaney, Mark Duplass | Written by Charles Randolph | Directed by Jay Roach

With performances that deserve their Oscar praise this year, comes a film that perhaps feels all too glossy and showy for the subject matter it’s dealing with.

bombshell-poster

Telling the story of Fox News and the vile Roger Ailes who ruled over the company, Bombshell depicts the story of his ultimate demise. When we look back into the Fox news room of 2016 it seems that it was the world’s worst kept secret as to what was going on behind the scenes, but as we dive into this film we start to see that the secrecy of what was happening so closely kept between each individual. Occasionally a whisper would be heard or a rumour spread but nothing more, that is until Greta Carlson publicly came forward to expose Roger Ailes for the loathsome man he is. This film focuses on three women, Greta Carlson (Nicole Kidman), Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron), and Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie). Two of these women (Carlson and Kelly) are real life portrayals of the very women who came forward, while Margot Robbie’s character is a fictional character based on a number of real life women. It’s within the hands of these three women the film poses its power, its heavy punches and the heart of its drama. Without these women it would be easy to brush this film to the side and miss it completely, however they manage to bring a power to scenes that I felt would other wise fall flat.

Living on this side of the pond comes with the issue that I have not seen any Fox News, and have never seen or heard of Great Carlson or Megyn Kelly, therefore it was hard to know if the portrayals given by the actors were an accurate representation. For me this is where one of the films strengths came from, I never felt like I needed to have seen this women before to know the performances I was watching were accurate, they always felt real and believable, as if these were the very women before my eyes and in the hands of Margot Robbie, the fictional character of Kayla Pospisil was the film’s strongest tool.

There is a scene involving Margot Robbie just before the halfway point of the film that was one of the finest pieces of acting I’ve seen in a long time. There was a haunting look in her eyes that made me feel scared, uncomfortable and sick to my stomach, it was in this one moment the film was working at its highest capacity. Unfortunately the film rarely reached this height again.

The main issue I have with Bombshell is it felt too showy, it felt style over substance. The subject the film was dealing with should’ve left me feeling like it did in that one powerful scene but it just didn’t. At times it was fun and a great look into the workings of a news room but never like a drama about sexual assault and harassment, for me that’s where the focus should have been. When you look back at films like Spotlight you remember being shocked, stunned and left squirming in your seat, but Bombshell only achieves that moment once.

I fear that if it wasn’t for the performances Bombshell could have easily been brushed aside, it was almost like the filmmakers were scared to take the knife and go for our hearts, which is exactly where it needed to go. It’s a film that I believe will no doubt spring a bit of controversy as some people will have a lot of enjoyment and get swept up in the films showy style. A style that’s easy to get tricked into, easy to fall into the film’s rhythm and enjoy the song it plays you. For me however the film never got as good or better than that one moment with Margot Robbie, it’s a film with wonderful performances that deserve all the praise they are getting and I fear that without those performances this could have come across a lot worse.

There were many things to like and many things to dislike, in many ways I just wish the filmmakers had the nerve to plunge that knife as deep as possible. Bombshell is a film that we should’ve been talking about for years and haunting or disturbing us more than it ever does, but in the end you probably won’t remember it after a day.

** 2/5

Bombshell is in cinemas now.

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