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Bombshell (R)
Film Reviews by Amy

01/09/20



 Good actresses do strong work in the shrug-whatever Bombshell, a dramatization of the uncovering of sexual harassment allegations that brought down Roger Ailes at Fox News. 

It’s Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) whose lawsuit blows open what, in the movie, is an open secret at Fox: Ailes (John Lithgow) is not just Mr. “Clear Desks So Viewers Can See Female On-Air Journalists’ Legs” but also a predatory boss who makes advances on promising journalists, offering career help for sexual favors (and implying there will be demotions for turning him down). The movie stacks up similar allegations against other Fox men, suggesting that the bad behavior tone set by Ailes reached down through the ranks. Though other women try to complain, it’s Carlson who goes to lawyers with damning evidence. 
Carlson’s allegations hit Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) particularly hard. Coming off months of Fox viewer hate for her “tough” (not really) questioning of a certain Twitter-addicted Republican presidential candidate, Kelly feels obligated to report her own harassment by Ailes even as she feels her position at the network is shaky. She conducts her own informal investigation to find out if Ailes is still being a creep, which leads her to Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie), a (fictional) journalist first on Carlson’s show and then on Bill O’Reilly’s (Kevin Dorff). Kayla goes to Ailes hoping to find a path to an on-air gig — and learns exactly what is required to get to the big time at Fox. 
Allegedly, according to the movie, don’t sue me.
Here are some of the other solid actors doing good work here: Allison Janney as Susan Estrich, Malcolm McDowell as Rupert Murdoch, Kate McKinnon as an O’Reilly producer (the one who offers the cynical “what would scare my grandmother or piss off my grandfather and that’s a Fox story” explanation to Kayla of their job), Connie Britton as Mrs. Roger Ailes, Rob Delaney as a Kelly producer, Mark Duplass as Kelly’s husband, Jennifer Morrison as a Fox personality who was demoted after complaining about harassment, Richard Kind as Rudy Giuliani. There are oodles more “hey, it’s that guy”s, each turning in meaty performances with minor scenes. And I think this movie does a good job explaining what sexual harassment (and whatever you’d call the menace-filled viewer harassment targeting Kelly) actually means on an individual level; we get to see the way women are treated from their point of view, hearing the woman’s internal narration in one case. 
And... “meh” is what it all amounts to? There’s something nihilistic about this movie, it’s sort of self-deflating. I don’t know if the greater world of national politics is too tangled up with this story — or if the Succession-y elements to the movie’s final act pulled me away from the central Carlson/Kelly/Kayla story — but “and we all lived whatever-ly ever after” was how this movie’s ending felt to me, which kind of made me wonder what I had just sat through and why. 
Bombshell is engaging enough as you watch it but sort of disintegrates into its bit parts (quality bit parts — thoughtful performances and interesting questions) once it’s all over. B
Rated R for sexual material and language throughout, according to the MPA. Directed by Jay Roach with a screenplay by Charles Randolph, Bombshell is one hour and 49 minutes long and distributed by Lionsgate. 
 





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