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Based on the true story of the women who brought forth sexual harassment allegations against Fox News honcho Roger Ailes, Bombshell is well directed, well written, and well acted. But perhaps more than anything else, it is a true accomplishment of casting. From having two Oscar winners and a third nominee in the three lead roles, all the way down to the actors who have to do little more than show up for one scene and resemble a real-life public figure, Bombshell nails every single casting choice. The result is a movie that feels authentic, even while maintaining its creativity and entertainment value.
Charlize Theron has the showiest role in the film as former Fox host Megyn Kelly. Theron’sresemblance to Kelly is uncanny, but the performance goes so far beyond the likeness. Theron opens the movie by speaking directly to the audience, walking us through the Fox News building, and explaining the layout. This set up allows the audience to navigate the rest of the movie’s machinations without losing track of where we are and who we are with. When we hear “2nd Floor,” we know exactly what that means. Theron’s Kelly also carries the moral weight of the movie as she debates whether or not to follow former Fox host Gretchen Carlson’s lead in exposing the truth about their boss, Roger Ailes.
Carlson is played by Nicole Kidman, who has the least showy role among the film’s three leads, but it is her character’s bravery and attention to detail that kicks the whole story into gear. John Lithgow, in loads of makeup, plays the aging Roger Ailes, and he is every bit as creepy as you might expect him to be.
The third lead is played by Margot Robbie. Whereas a majority of the performers in the movie are playing real people, Robbie’s Kayla Pospisil is a fictional amalgam of the many less famous women who were abused and harassed by Roger Ailes and others at Fox News. Kayla is an ambitious young woman with dreams of becoming an anchor and it is through her eyes that we see the horrible truth about what it takes for a woman to reach such heights in the Fox organization. Her scenes with Ailes are the most uncomfortable in the movie, but crucial to the point of the story. Later in the film, Robbie gets the clearest Oscar-bait scene in the movie and nails it.
Other notable performers include Mark Duplass, Allison Janney, Malcolm McDowell, Connie Britton, Robin Weigert, and Stephen Root. But the standout among all of the supporting players is Kate McKinnon, who is proving to be a national treasure with every film and television appearance. McKinnon plays Fox News staffer Jess Carr, who shows Robbie’s Kayla the ropes both in and out of the office. McKinnon’s character is responsible for dishing out a large amount of exposition early in the movie, giving us the lowdown on the philosophy of Fox News (stories that would “scare your grandmother and piss off your grandfather”), but her charisma and comic charm turns what could have been a dull info dump into one of the most entertaining scenes in the movie. She appears sparingly throughout the remainder of the movie, but does play a crucial role in demonstrating the ongoing culture at the organization.
The movie is written by Charles Randolph, who co-wrote 2015’s The Big Short with Adam McKay. Like that movie, Bombshell does not shy from bending the “rules” of filmmaking. The movie breaks the fourth wall on multiple occasions and at least three different characters speak through narration at some point. In one of the film’s more impactful moments, the movie puts the faces of six real-life victims of Roger Ailes on the screen and allows them to tell their story with their own voices.
Director Jay Roach’s combined background of comedy (he directed the Austin Powers and Meet the Parents movies) and political drama (the HBO films Recount and Game Change) serve him well to tell this story about a horrifying abuse of power, and to do it in a way that entertains the audience, without losing sight of the true story’s significance and importance. Thanks to his guidance, award-worthy performances, and a clever script, Bombshell delivers.
Bombshell opens today at the AMC Kent Station 14, the AMC Southcenter 16, the Century Federal Way, and Regal’s Renton Landing.