Bombshell Review

Review: Bombshell

Score: C

Director: Jay Roach

Cast: Charlize Theron, Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman, John Lithgow

Running Time: 108 Minutes

Rated: R

With wild tonal shifts and a confusing message, Bombshell muddles a powerful story. But its quartet of great performances keeps it from being a complete misfire.

Charlize Theron delivers another chameleonic performance as Megyn Kelly, the most important female anchor on Fox News. She looks and sounds just like her. The film spends much of the first hour establishing her feud with Donald Trump and her reluctance to speak up when she's objectified. Nicole Kidman is terrific as usual as Gretchen Carlson, the former Fox & Friends co-host who files a lawsuit against founder Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) for sexual harassment, but finds herself more alone than ever before. And Margot Robbie plays Kayla, a composite character, standing in for the dozens of women violated by Ailes.

But that's about it for great acting in the film. There's a massive cast, but their performances range from solid-but-forgettable (Malcolm McDowell as Rupert Murdoch) to downright terrible (Richard Kind as Rudy Giuliani). Because the film can't decide on a tone, some scenes are cartoonish and others deadly serious, and the cast follows suit. Some actors are trying to craft compelling characters, and others are just delivering subpar impressions. (And in one unnerving scene, Bill O'Reilly's head is CGI'd onto an actor's body.)

Bombshell's fatal flaw, though, is in asserting that Fox News' only problem is that Roger Ailes is a pervert. The channel's purpose as a racist and xenophobic propaganda machine is barely touched on. Any proper exposé of this conservative institution can't just gloss over that. In one scene, the film attempts to hold Megyn Kelly's feet to the fire for her complicity as a higher-up in the network, but veers close to victim-blaming at the same time.

But in fleeting moments, the movie is great. Megyn Kelly's direct address to the audience, explaining the inner workings of Fox News, harkens back to what writer Charles Randolph did so well in The Big Short. But it doesn't work when other characters try it. And the initial interview between Kayla and Ailes is tense and uncomfortable, as it should be.

Like last year's Vice, Bombshell represents a real missed opportunity. There's nothing as insulting as the former's post-credits scene, but it doesn't take an intellectual to realize this story is incomplete.

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About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.