‘Bombshell’ is a story worthy of attention, not a hurrah of newspeak

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Grade: 4.0/5.0

“To get ahead, you’ve got to give a little head” is the fictional Roger Ailes’ motto for women in the new film, “Bombshell.” This adage may have been unfortunately fitting for Ailes’ real-life personality, considering his reign as the chairman and CEO of Fox News and Fox Television Stations that ended in July 2016 amid allegations from multiple women publicly accusing him of sexual harassment. While it’s important to watch the vulnerable stories of the female characters in “Bombshell,” it’s also meaningful to remember the storm of real-life cases that occurred and opened a space to encourage a larger discussion about sexual misconduct in the film industry: former chief creative officer John Lasseter leaving Pixar Animation Studios amid sexual misconduct allegations, sexual harassment allegations prompting Harvey Weinstein’s removal from his own company and the media fire #MeToo movement.

Inspired by true stories, Charlize Theron plays former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly alongside Nicole Kidman as television commentator Gretchen Carlson and Margot Robbie as fictional character Kayla Pospisil, an ambitious evangelical millennial. All three actresses perform outstandingly, but the scenes that stay particularly burned into audiences’ minds belong to none other than Robbie. During a disturbing moment in Ailes’ infamous second-floor office, Pospisil is repeatedly asked to lift her dress higher and higher, an expression of abhorrence on her face. The sole sound you’re able to hear is Ailes’ jagged and sickening breath. It’s undoubtedly breathtaking to see Robbie transform in every unique role she’s in: Her face is invariably the same yet she’s unrecognizable when first hitting the screen in a new film — the best part is that we get to know Robbie again in a manner entirely different from her last role. 

Artistically, “Bombshell” has its crafty moments, one being the surprisingly suitable breaking of the fourth wall. This strategy informs audiences, in an ironic and mocking tone, with thoughtful observations of what you should consider, such as “how you treat people you disagree with says everything about you” and “do you know why they dress soldiers the same? Because they are replaceable.” It’s a quick-witted and entertaining method of communicating humor that undeniably works well with the tempo and style of this narrative. 

Films within this controversial atmosphere have the tendency to be averted or approached with hesitancy, but “Bombshell” isn’t pushing propaganda on viewers with an insipidly subjective narrative. The film presents itself well as reasonably neutral, sticking to factual storytelling that harbors the current political discourse surrounding sexual assault, particularly in how the film doesn’t portray the women as carbon copies of each other banded together in a hurrah of feminism. Instead, the film focuses on the complicated and nuanced relationship the women have with corporate discrimination and sexual abuse. 

Kate McKinnon’s character Jess Carr functions as a satirical representation of the difficulty of working for a company that one doesn’t morally agree with. She deliriously giggles at the thought of being “a closeted Democrat at Fox News” and her affinity for “thriving in toxic environments” as a lesbian. Kelly feels conflicted about whether to expose herself as a survivor of Ailes’ attacks, not wanting to possibly end her career or be the “poster girl for sexual harassment.” The significance of these portrayals lies in how they show multiple sides of the conversation rather than forcing one perspective. “Bombshell” intentionally shows audiences that many women supported Ailes within Fox, establishing a basis that separates itself from creating a women versus women or men versus women slant. 

At its core, “Bombshell” drops bombs of sarcasm and honesty, blowing up a story deserving of listening ears and an open mind. 

Contact Cameron Opartkiettikul at [email protected]