- Movie Rating -

Bombshell (2019)

| January 6, 2020

I might be blamed for gross misogyny if I decline a film with as noble an agenda as Bombshell, but I assure you that there is a larger reason why I give the film a less-than-stellar rating.   Here is a sometimes hard-hitting, but mostly featherweight retelling of the 2016 scandal that rocked FOX News when several of its former female employees exposed the festering culture of sexual harassment that had taken place over several decades.  That’s a perfect subject for a drama, but I have a specific reason for negating the film and it has nothing to do with the subject matter.

My objection to Bombshell does not come from the material but from the craft.  This is a well-acted recounting of events but they are mired in a film that is so badly made that I briefly wondered if I was seeing a rough cut.  The filmmakers have clearly spent just as much time writing the film as they have getting everything to look right.   Too much time, and that’s the problem.

Great care has gone to make Charlize Theron look like Megyn Kelly.  Great care has gone to make Nicole Kidman look like Gretchen Carlson.  And I can see that a lot of work went into making John Lithgow look like Roger Ailes.  But the problem is that throughout the movie, I was constantly distracted by vast amounts of overdone technology and make-up.  When I briefly saw the actor playing Bill O’Reilly I was startled because so much computer technology went into making the actor look right that O’Reilly looked like a cut-scene from a video game.

Those elements stood out to me, and that’s not what I should have been focused on.  This is an important story.  The women employed at FOX News were harassed in varying degrees over a number of decades by Roger Ailes under threat of losing their careers and their livelihood and you can’t help but feel for them when they go seeking justice.  But again, I’m distratacted because this is a badly made film, like a lightweight TV movie in which the filmmakers are so concerned with getting everyone to look like their real-life counterparts that the make-up is a distraction.

The worst falls on poor John Lithgow who dons an unfortunate fat suit and jowls to play Roger Ailes.  Ailes is portrayed in this movie as a one-dimensional lecherous creep with one thing on his mind, but there is never a real sense of how he kept his job for so many years or what he actually meant to the success of FOX News.  In other words, we aren’t looking at a human being but a shabby stand-in that one might see in a PSA for sexual harassment.

Bombshell was directed by Jay Roach, who helmed the much more effective Game Change, the story of how Sarah Palin became John McCain’s running mate.  That film employed look-alikes but it never got in the way of the story.  Here it does.  There’s a lot of work that went into it and you can see the paint and scotch tape so abundantly that the important story simply lays underneath it.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2019) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized