The word bombshell has two definitions in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. One notes that the word can mean “one that is stunning, amazing or devastating.” The other meaning is, of course, “a person who is the cause and object of sensational and usually widespread attention, excitement or attraction,” accompanied by the well-known example “a blonde bombshell.” The poster for Bombshell, featuring Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron, would lead one to believe that this film adheres to the latter definition. Three gorgeous, blonde women could never inflict “devastation” like the first definition of the word, could they?
Devastation is exactly what Megyn Kelly (Theron), Gretchen Carlson (Kidman) and Kayla Pospisil (Robbie) would stir up for Fox News. The three protagonists who seem to lead separate, but very similar, lives are unlikely heroines in this film. Although the three women rarely interact with one another on-screen, there is a bond between them: a shared goal of bringing down the Fox News tycoon, Roger Ailes (John Lithgow).
The main plot is strong and sadly based on true events that occurred at the Fox News office in New York. The film opens with a useful recap on the behind the scenes ongoings of a Fox newsroom. It served as a way of setting the scene for a majority of viewers who might be unfamiliar with the inner workings of news outlets. Director Jay Roach integrated explanations throughout the movie to ensure anyone could understand what was going on, which is an impressive feat considering the many moving parts and storylines of this film. The escalation of the plot was well-paced, despite the movie following three protagonists’ stories.
The leading ladies each effectively lead their own plotline, while entangling themselves with each other to create a storyline that thickened with every minute of playtime. At times there was the opportunity for the plot to become muddled, yet Roach was effective in keeping dates, events and people clear throughout. Dates were edited into the bottom corner of the screen throughout the film to keep the audience on track and aware of when the scenes were taking place. This was a small, but effective touch to ensuring the three storylines did not become overwhelming.
What the plot lacked was a follow up with side plots. Without spoiling anything, certain twists in the plot were left open-ended. This could have been done on purpose to exercise the audience’s imagination, yet came across as half-baked. Certain stares into the camera or lines alluded to the possibility of foreshadowing but often fell flat and were never followed up on. Despite the lack of development in the subplots, the overall plot was exciting, unexpected and worth the watch.
Lithgow plays a decrepit creep who preys on young, beautiful women looking to make it onto prime-time Fox News. As the CEO of Fox News, Ailes abuses his power by making sexual advances on vulnerable news anchor prospects. Lithgow’s depiction of Ailes is sickening; he is aggressive, suggestive and could make anyone’s stomach churn with disgust. The wrath brought onto him by a massive sexual harassment lawsuit is much deserving and Lithgow makes it easy to hate him with his entire repulsive persona. His subtle mannerisms made me squirm in the audience, his provocative stare and heavy breathing around Pospisil were truly disgusting. Lithgow nails this role and perfectly portrays Ailes as a creepy, powerful predator. In using subtle character mannerisms, Bombshell effectively displays the reality of sexual harassment, namely the ambiguity so often associated with sexual advances in the workplace. On top of the uncomfortable scenes between Ailes and multiple women, he is able to maintain his power by inflicting political and financial retaliation. The coercion he uses, among other male antagonists, is, unfortunately, something many women still face in workplaces today.
To contrast Lithgow’s depiction of Ailes, all three female stars produce a wave of compassion and empathy among viewers. Robbie as Pospisil is absolutely stunning in every respect; she is emotional, relatable and frustratingly naive. Her acting abilities, namely her ability to appear candid and akin to everyday women viewers, are fascinating to watch. Her vulnerability while interacting with Ailes pulled at my heartstrings. She was simultaneously an innocent girl and a driven woman dead set on accelerating her career. The tears she shed felt like a perfect representation of the tears shed by every woman who had fallen victim to Ailes’ abuse. Although her character is fabricated and not based on a real person, her character is an asset to understanding the overall plot and enhances the film.
Kidman as Carlson was also impressive. She portrayed Carlson as stubborn and relentless, leaving the audience inclined to root for her character from start to finish. Unfortunately, Kidman’s hair and makeup took away from the realness of her character. Whether her hair was styled or she was wearing a wig, it looked extremely fake and brought audience members out of the legitimacy of her character. This was a disappointing lack of attention to detail in an otherwise strong movie.
Theron stole the show with her acting and absolutely sells the role of Kelly. She portrays this character perfectly, she and Kelly are one and every emotion that crosses her face looks genuine.
The three bombshells of this movie blew me away as strong female leads who were impressive because of their talent and commitment to their craft. The last thing anyone could say about this movie is that the female leads were effective solely because they are traditionally beautiful. The true bombshells in this film were the plot’s twists and turns that followed the downfall and eventual justice for Ailes’ actions.
Bombshell effectively reclaims the word to mean much more than a pretty blonde model. The beauty of this movie is in the power and strong will of the female characters. In the age of #MeToo, this movie was incredibly relatable and valuable in creating a community among victims of sexual assault and harassment. Bombshell continues an important conversation about abuse of power, sexism and the struggles of women in corporate America.