When Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) slaps Fox News founder Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) with a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment, not a soul could predict what would happen next. Her decision leads to Fox News correspondent Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) coming forward with her own story, as well as multiple other women, inciting a movement that reverberates around the world.
Jay Roach is a filmmaker that I respect even though I am not always the biggest fan of his films. He has made some fun movies in the early 2000s such as a few of the Austin Powers movies but I usually find that he has a hard time telling a dramatic story and telling it well. Back in 2015, he directed the biographical drama Trumbo which was a decent enough picture, but one that I found lacked an emotional punch and whose story was stretched out.
This is why Bombshell was a movie that I was not extremely excited for. Even though, the initial trailer did impress me and the makeup team looked like they were doing fantastic things. But there were two things that were compelling me to check out this film – the first being its screenwriter, Charles Randolph. Randolph served as co-writer on The Big Short; a movie that I actually quite enjoyed despite some flaws. It was a deeply interesting and incredibly well-told story, and when I learned that he was penning the script for Bombshell, I was more intrigued.
But maybe the thing that excited me the most was the cast. This is a star-studded cast to say the least. We have legendary actors such as Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman in the leading roles, with relatively new and revolutionary actress Margot Robbie serving as a supporting actress. On top of that, we have other supporting actors in the bunch such as John Lithgow, Connie Britton, and Allison Janney.
Gratefully, Bombshell was a movie that was decent enough, although almost nothing about it blew me away. Its story, while definitely interesting during certain elements, just did not have that emotional impact that I was hoping it would have. This is one of those films where you get more interested in what’s happening as the film progresses, but I don’t necessarily think that’s a good thing. It took me a great deal of time before I was interested in our lead protagonists, but luckily, I did care after a while.
It’s just that the approach to the screenplay is so unconventional, really. With a better script, this could have been a really great film, but its writing is often times too quirky and its strange style bog the film down during some parts. Also, there are numerous moments in which some of the characters break the fourth wall. The previous film Randolph wrote, the aforementioned Big Short, also had scenes where characters would do this, albeit much more exaggerated. There was an entire scene in that film where Margot Robbie, as herself, was in a bathtub giving a gigantic monologue right to the camera.
There are no sequences as meta as that here, which is a good thing. It was something that took me out of the story a little bit in The Big Short, and while Bombshell does do this every once in a while, it did not bother me too much.
Something that genuinely deserves a round of applause here is the makeup and hair-styling team. They just received an Academy Award nomination for the film during the writing of this review, and it is not hard to see why. The team did a truly remarkable job at transforming Theron into FOX News anchor Megyn Kelly.
Speaking of Theron, the strongest element to Bombshell is without a doubt its cast and how good they are here. Theron is asked to do a whole bunch here and she makes it look so easy. Never once did I see Theron in the role. It truthfully felt like I was watching Kelly on screen, and not an actor.
Easily the best performance this film has to offer though, comes from Robbie who portrays Kayla Pospisil, an employee at FOX. Not only did I think she delivered the strongest performance of the entire cast, but she is the character that I was perhaps the most interested in. The film gives here some good development over the course of its running time, although it would have been nice if the film spent just a little more time with her character, as it really primarily focuses on Theron and Lithgow’s characters.
There is one scene with Robbie towards the third act that impressed me greatly. Its an incredibly emotional and raw scene that Robbie acts beautifully in. Right down to the timing of a single tear drop dripping down her cheek to a subtle shake in her voice, it is truly astounding what she was able to do with the role.
Finally, something that really bugged me about the film was its editing by Jon Poll. It is not good. It actually kind of reminded me of the editing in Bohemian Rhapsody a few years ago. One sequence in particular taking place inside of a restaurant had an absurd amount of quick cuts and after a while, it just became annoying.
But nevertheless, this is a decent movie with a story that gratefully gets better and more interesting as the film’s running time chugs along, but it suffers from a somewhat dull and often times strange script that doesn’t have enough of an emotional impact. What really keeps this film afloat is its remarkable acting by all of the leads as well as some of the supporting cast, as well as its good direction and sleek cinematography.
Bombshell is a terrific showcase for Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie’s acting abilities and is great in its technical efforts, but often lacks in its storytelling.
Overall Grade: B-
MPAA Rating: R for sexual material and language throughout
Cast: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow, Kate McKinnon, Connie Britton, Malcolm McDowell, Allison Janney
Directed by: Jay Roach
Distributed by: Lionsgate
Release Date: December 13, 2019 (United States)
Running Time: 108 minutes