BOMBSHELL, Releasing January 13.
The three women depicted on Bombshell’s poster appear together onscreen only once, sharing an elevator to ‘Level 2’, the foreboding codename of mercurial Fox News founder and CEO Roger Ailes’ office in New York City’s News Corp. building. They are veteran news anchor Megyn Kelly (played with a stunning likeness by Charlize Theron), TV commentator and 1989 Miss America Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman), and self-described ‘evangelical millennial’ assistant producer Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie). Only Kelly and Carlson are based on real-life figures, with Pospisil representing a fictionalised amalgam of various women’s stories of working at Fox News. Despite the relative unfamiliarity of these names to an Australian audience, the ramifications of their lives and experiences form part of a narrative that has only become increasingly prevalent across the globe in the last four years.
Bombshell tells the recent story of the largely-ignored sexual harassment accusations against Ailes (John Lithgow) and the women that brought down his 20-year reign as CEO of Fox News. When Carlson (Kidman) is unceremoniously fired from Fox, she mounts a sexual harassment suit against Ailes which begins the tidal wave of lies, deceit and corruption systemic to protecting the CEO. Not only does this cause ripples throughout the company at large, but polarises the responses of other women befallen by similar circumstance as some lie, remain quiet and even utilize the story for their own ambition. Pospisil (Robbie) is one such woman who, in contrast, is innocently elated by the opportunity to meet the mogul Ailes and the success he can provide; only then to be subjected to sexual harassment and manipulation. Exploring the two character’s positions, the story then progresses to Kelly (Theron) as she grapples whether to corroborate to Carlson’s harassment with her own story of harassment due to a misguided sense of ‘loyalty’ and ultimately becomes the glue that ties the three stories together, offering a uniquely female perspective to this story.
Director Jay Roach (All the Way, Trumbo) approaches the subject matter with a balance of realism and levity, frequently cutting to archival excerpts of real newsreels as well as utilising footage of the real Donald Trump in interviews conducted by the film’s fictionalised version of Kelly. The result is a quick-witted drama that blurs the lines between documentary and dramatisation, using quick cuts, zooms, and vérité-documentarian style camerawork that when matched with the powerful performances of the central cast, delivers careful musings upon differing points of view that seem brash at the outset, only later to achieve their full egregious potency.
Although the surface narrative bears a significant focus on the process of bringing Ailes to justice, its deeper thematic conversation involves a struggle for female solidarity in a male-dominated corporate culture that rewards scheming and competitiveness. More broadly, viewers are encouraged to consider the corrupting temptations of power and influence, as even the characters cast as protagonists aren’t fully absolved; struggling with their own morals when facing a path to justice obscured by the threat of lost friendships and ruined careers.
Session times for BOMBSHELL
This blog post was written by Patrick McKenzie, a staff member at Palace Norton St, film studies student, and freelance writer.