This movie review discusses sexual assault in the workplace. Please refer to the end of the article for on- and off-campus resources.
In 2016, Fox News faced sexual misconduct allegations from Gretchen Carlson against Roger Ailes, the then CEO of Fox News and Fox Television Stations. Jay Roach tackles this allegation, and some of the 22 others that would follow, in his film “Bombshell.” Despite the fascinating and terrifying story, Roach and writer Charles Randolph struggle to properly dramatize the story, lacking depth on key points. With the #MeToo movement prominent in public conversation, “Bombshell” could have fashioned itself as a meaningful look at sexual harassment in the United States, but fell short of its intentions.
The A-list cast is wasted because of poor writing and cheesy dialogue, and they are often unable to rise above it. Roach, who worked on “Trumbo,” and Randolph, who worked on “The Big Short,” try to recreate the wit, drama and irreverent humor of those previous films, but fail to match their charisma. The resulting movie does not fit into a specific genre, feeling more like a Lifetime movie with a larger budget and voice-overs that felt goofy and out of place in a film of such heavy emotion. “Bombshell” has a plethora of missed opportunities and intentions, which struggle to tell this powerful story.
Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie) is by far the most compelling member of the cast. Unlike Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) and Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman), Kayla is an amalgamation of several survivors who spoke to the filmmakers, and not a specific, actual person. This level of removal forms her into a character that is written for the screen and meant to appeal to all viewers.
Kayla is a typical Fox journalist: sensitive and a little naive, but equipped with determined ambition. Perhaps it is because she is fictional, or because we see her sexually harassed on screen, but Robbie establishes a close relationship with the audience that Kidman and Theron simply do not, even though their characters are based on real people.
This is not to say that the film attempts to make the harassment faced by Kelly and Carlson humorous, but instead further complicates them as human beings who are attempting to do their jobs. “Bombshell” does not shy away from their political views, but rather works to cement the the idea that all people should enjoy a workplace free from sexual harassment.
John Lithgow playing the part of Richard Ailes departs from his more frequent role as a comedic character, making Ailes as terrifying to watch as he is sickeningly charming. There are parts of the film where it is difficult to separate Lithgow from the role he is playing before he forces someone to pull up their skirt, or makes sexual comments about their legs. This eerie feeling Lithgow’s character evokes pulls viewers into the film, and while successful, ultimately falls short with redeeming the narrative components of the film.
As the type of man who usually gets away with exactly these sorts of crimes every day, it is powerful when he begins to head toward his own ruin and is ultimately fired from a network he helped create. “Bombshell” does not shy away from the fact that Ailes’ supporters still work at Fox News or that the environment of Fox News is primed to protect and hide other sexual predators, a reality that leaves viewers with a sense of discomfort about the world.
Jess Carr’s (Kate McKinnon) storyline of a closeted liberal lesbian at Fox is uninspired and bland, with McKinnon playing another version of the character she always plays, featuring a mixture of edgy humor, bluntness and a wide-eyed stare. Her character does not develop or change in any way, meaningful or otherwise, and only attempts to add humor to an otherwise unfunny situation of workplace harassment and assault. If her character had been omitted, it would have left room to further develop the three main female characters of the film and give it the depth it was sorely lacking.
Overall, “Bombshell” relies too heavily on its cast and sensational plotline. It should have provided a closer look at the women whose lives and careers were negatively affected by Roger Ailes and Fox News for protecting and supporting him.
Despite its shining moments, “Bombshell” fails to give the women in the story the character depth they deserve. It falls flat in adding anything compelling to this uncomfortable situation.
Resources: On-campus confidential resources include Health Education Services (202-687-8949 or [email protected]) and Counseling and Psychiatric Services (202-687-6985); additional off-campus resources include the D.C. Rape Crisis Center (202-333-7273) and the D.C. Forensic Nurse Examiner Washington Hospital Center (844-443-5732). If you or anyone you know would like to receive a sexual assault forensic examination or other medical care — including emergency contraception — call the Network for Victim Recovery of D.C. at 202-742-1727. To report sexual misconduct, you can contact Georgetown’s interim Title IX coordinator at 202-687-9183 or file an online report here. Emergency contraception is available at the CVS located at 1403 Wisconsin Ave NW and through H*yas for Choice. For more information, visit tinyurl.com/GUselfcare.