Roger Ailes’ ouster from the media company he built is explored in this drama, but it only scratches the surface.
“Bombshell” tells the story of Ailes’ (John Lithgow) final months at Fox News by taking the perspective of anchors Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) and Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman). Additionally, brought into the middle of the situation is a reporter for Fox, Kayla (Margot Robbie) who’s representative of anonymous victims who worked at the company.
Aside from a few flashbacks, the film takes place over the course of the 2016 presidential election, with an emphasis on the Republican Primary. The focus on the primary comes as some at Fox News, such as Kelly, have issues with then candidate Donald Trump. The friction of the primary coincides with the building of a case against Ailes, who was accused by several women of sexual harassment and assault.
Jay Roach, whose last feature film was “Trumbo,” returns to the directors chair with a somewhat unconventional film in “Bombshell.” In a way, the movie feels reminiscent of “Vice” and “The Big Short,” as there are several scenes where the characters either break the fourth wall and talk to the audience, or old footage and photos are shown with commentary over them.
From a creative standpoint, Roach’s approach works fine. The filmmaking does deliver in showing the chaotic, toxic environment at Fox News. While the movie has a working aesthetic, though, it doesn’t dig as deep as maybe one would like.
While the movie explores what Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson had to deal with during their time at the channel, and their legal moves against Ailes, it doesn’t truly get across Ailes’ reach. The man was a force in the media, and several women had come forward after the years with allegations against him, yet there’s a sense that what’s in “Bombshell” is only the tip of the iceberg.
The politics of Fox News is also seemingly downplayed, as the film usually just goes surface levels with some of the channel’s more excessive moments. “Bombshell” also seems to have a lack of urgency, as months seem to pass without major developments.
The acting is undoubtedly good, though. Theron is incredible in portraying Megyn Kelly, with an unbelievably convincing performance. Kidman is also really impressive as Carlson, capturing the news anchor’s commitment to completing her legal battle with Ailes. Robbie has some of the best scenes, though, with an especially powerful moment of acting in the third act.
“Bombshell” is a nicely made film with award caliber performances, there’s no doubt about that. But there’s a sense that the movie, ironically, doesn’t give the whole story. It deserves to be seen, especially thanks to the acting, but it doesn’t reach the top levels of 2019. 3.5 out of 5.