Starring Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow
Directed by Jay Roach
Rating: ** ½ (two and a half stars)
Why is Bollywood not making a single film about sexual harassment and the MeToo movement? Could it be because some prominent movers and shakers of the entertainment industry have their hands sullied in the sex-as-a-power tool sleaze? I know of at least two major screenplays floating around in the major corporate houses, both being rejected for being “too close to home.”
Hollywood has gone and done it, though. Their first major film after the Harvey Weinstein sex-domination scandal and the ensuing MeToo movement is a remarkable work of recreation, and I don’t mean that as a compliment. Because, at its best, what Bombshell does is to create a replica of the incidents that occurred at that time, down to a doppelganger of Fox star-anchor Megyn Kelly, played by the stunning Charlize Theron, who looks so much like Megyn in this film that the actress is unrecognizable.
Nicole Kidman’s Gretchan Carlson, who initiated the move to expose the Fox boss Roger Aisles (played with supreme conviction by John Lithgow), comes across as rather tepid in comparison. Where she should have been persuasive, Nicole is passive and proper, as though afraid to get her hands soiled while washing the dirty linen.
But the linen does get washed, as a number of women come forward with their tales of titillating torture in their boss’ inner chamber.
I found Bombshell to be too time-bound. It needed a lot more space than the 108 minutes allotted by the unsparing editor (Jon Poll), to give all the characters a coherent and cogent voice. There are over 40 major characters (including the veteran Clockwork Orange actor Malcom Mcdonell as Rupert Murdoch) in this tale of hormonal hecticity. To be heard, they must be seen as individuals rather than a cluster of lately-empowered women trying to get a few words in edgewise.
Regrettably, this is how the narrative comes across. The film ends up mimicking a newsroom. Everybody is in a hurry. What we get are glimpses, albeit vivid at times, of lives tethered to ambition and pride. While we see just glimpses of Megyn Kelly’s homelife (supportive husband, undemanding daughter), we see nothing of Gretchan Carlson’s life outside the newsroom.
The female protagonist with the maximum airtime in this film is Margot Robbie’s Kayla Pospisil. And she isn’t even real. The made-up character has the one truly incriminating sequence of sexual harassment that makes us cringe for all the wrong reasons. The way Lithgow commands Robbie to “show her legs”, and his wheezing hard-breathing approval when she obliges, made my flesh crawl.
There aren’t any other such “revealing” moments in the film. Most of it neither angers nor motivates. Bombshell left me frustrated. Did I miss something?