Bombshell is a #MeToo movie from the director of Meet the Fockers. Thank you for reading my review.
This fictionalised exposé does for the Fox News sexual harassment scandal what The Big Short did for the financial crash and Vice did for Dick Cheney, ie. tells us what happened quite badly. The function of this one is even hazier, since all one has to do to discover that Fox News is a sexist institution is to watch Fox News. We don’t need a two-hour hagiography of its staff because they took time out of their busy routine of peddling lies and hate for money to take down Roger Ailes (John Lithgow), only to continue working there under the Murdochs (whom the movie positions as the good guys).
The film frames Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) as a hero for standing up to Trump in 2016 (“He’ll never be president” – see what they did there?) while continuing to work for his greatest propagandist, and only reporting her friend Roger for sexually harassing her after she’s shocked to learn (or might be if Theron would move her face) that he’s done the same to other women at the channel. At no point do any of the model-looking women or Bill O’Reilly-looking men glance up from their “ARE FEMALE BREADWINNERS A PROBLEM?” headlines and go “maybe the culture here is sexist,” because the movie’s criticisms of Fox News stretch only as far as Ailes’ penis.
Lithgow is imposingly grotesque in the role, alongside a litany of leathery faces representing everyone from Jeanine Pirro (Alanna Ubach) to Sean Hannity (Spencer Garrett). Not since Suicide Squad has a film put so many villains in the same room. Strong performances from Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman and Kate McKinnon (who could have played all 40 characters) make up for Theron’s studied yet muted turn as Megyn Kelly, but can’t overcome the simplistic script by Charles Randolph (The Big Short) and televisual direction by Jay Roach (The Campaign) to justify the existence of a film that puts the “why?” in Megyn.
Just as Vice and The Big Short seemed almost impressed with its characters’ machinations, Bombshell embraces the superficiality on which Ailes built Fox News. When liberal Hollywood appears so seduced by the sleaze and villainy of American politics, the rise of Trump doesn’t seem so surprising.