Sunday, December 22, 2019
STARS: Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow
DIRECTOR: Jay Roach
I've been a tad critical of some of the #MeToo movies that have come out--notably The Favourite, The Wife, and Late Night--all reviewed here previously. I felt they either came off as preachy, or exhibited pre-conceived notions about men, a la the tongue-in-cheek meme at the top of this review!
Didn't get that feeling with Bombshell. It was straightforward and fast paced--and ironically, because it's subject was Fox News--it wasn't trying to put a spin on the events as they were unfolding! The film is "based upon actual events"--that nebulous phrase that's come to mean that they made some of the stuff up. And to their credit, the filmmakers placed that advisory right up front at the beginning (whereas Clint Eastwood stuck--or snuck--a similar notice in with the closing credits in Richard Jewell).
Most of us know the basic story of how Roger Ailes--CEO of Fox News and the guy who built it into the empire it is today, was taken down by courageous news anchor Gretchen Carlson when she sued him for sexual harassment. Others, including Megyn Kelly, eventually backed her up with their own corroborating evidence of his pervy transgressions. The film title refers to the impact the story made when it broke, as well as the three blonde-tressed barbies who are central to the tale.
Here there is no gray area. No insinuating that all men are kinda like that. This is a story about power more than perversion, and how absolute power in any position of life corrupts. And how those subjected to it feel powerless to do anything about it.
There are three parallel narratives--with Nicole Kidman as Gretchen Carlson, Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly and Margot Robbie as a composite character: a naive new hire named Kayla. Theron completely inhabits her character, and is a dead ringer appearance wise for the real Megyn Kelly. Nicole Kidman is always a treat to watch. But it is Robbie who brings it in spades this time, in one of the most powerful scenes I've seen in a long time, as the tearful Kayla recounts what she felt pressured into doing with Ailes. Heart breaking to watch. Kate McKinnon, as an in-the-closet lesbian Fox producer, provides some occasional relief from all the blonde-ness. John Lithgow, in all his puffy Roger Ailes-ness, has perv down pat when he utters something to the effect of "boys will be boys" in his own defense.
Impressive cast. Impressive work. I don't think you'll see the likes of them all together like that again. Unless it's at The Oscars.
Grade: B +
Wednesday, December 18, 2019
STARS: Paul Walter Hauser, Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, Olivia Wilde, Jon Hamm
DIRECTOR: Clint Eastwood
There is no denying that Clint Eastwood is a master filmmaker, and in Richard Jewell he has crafted a riveting drama with clearly defined good guys and bad guys that will push all of your buttons. Clearly defined, that is, if you want to buy into Eastwood's right-eous vision of the world.
Jewell (Paul Walter Hauser)--as you may or may not recall--was the security guard who discovered a bomb in an abandoned backpack in Centennial Park during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. He alerted police on the premises and saved lives by helping to get people cleared away from the scene before the blast went off--resulting in two deaths and injuring over a hundred unsuspecting souls attending an outdoor concert.
Initially hailed as a hero, Jewell then came under suspicion as a suspect in the bombing. He is portrayed as a dimwitted loose cannon, who had a habit of getting fired from his law enforcement and security guard jobs. Jon Hamm, as FBI agent Tom Shaw, leads a team of overzealous and unscrupulous investigators bent upon fingering Jewell as the culprit. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution breaks the story--and as we see so often today, another individual is convicted in the court of public opinion long before due process has run its course. Jewell was eventually cleared of any involvement in the bombing that was engineered by Eric Rudolph
Outstanding turns from Hauser, who seems born for this role, and the reliably excellent Sam Rockwell as Jewell's feisty lawyer, make this as compelling a drama as you'll find. But the integrity of Clint Eastwood's art is compromised by his insistence on making a political statement in essentially everything he does. In this case it's an obvious and heavy-handed one--demonizing two of today's popular targets of the right (and that originates straight from the top of the McDonald's eating political food chain), the free press and the FBI.
Eastwood saw his chance to hop on the bandwagon. He plays fast and loose with the truth, as in the portrayal of newspaper reporter Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde), who broke the story about Jewell coming under suspicion, as being an amoral opportunist who would do whatever--including trading sexual favors to get a news scoop. Scruggs' former colleagues, family and friends reportedly were not contacted by the filmmakers to get the scoop on who she really was and what she was about.
Eastwood apparently felt it was okay to besmirch a deceased person's reputation to serve his own agenda as tit-for-tat because of what happened to poor hapless Richard Jewell. But the film going public may be better equipped to smell a rat than Eastwood gives them credit for.
Richard Jewell is bombing at the box office.
Grade: C -