Sunday, December 22, 2019


Rated:  R

STARS: Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow
GENRE: Drama

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 +


With all the advanced publicity about Bombshell, I was expecting a bonanza of a film. Unfortunately, I had watched the same tale being told on Showtime. Russell Crowe played Ayles in this made-for-cable-TV version titled "The Loudest Voice." It had some definite advantages: mainly time. Whereas Bombshell had to cram the entire sequence of events on screen in an hour and 48 minutes. Too little time for such a public undoing.

Tim has pretty much covered the outstanding performances by these veteran actors. But as far as my take on 'the most powerful scene,' it would have to be the initial meeting between Roger Ailes, smarmily played by John Lithgow, and Kayla, his latest victim-in-training. To say it made me squirm would be a gross understatement. I asked the guy I saw the movie with how he had reacted to that scene? He said he felt both sorry for the girl and a bit titillated. (Therein lies the difference between the sexes!)

I've been a long time fan of John Lithgow since... forever. Whether he plays a classic psycho (e.g. his recurring role in the TV series "Dexter") or an alien dad ("Third Rock From The Sun"), his work always rings true. And that distinctive voice is unforgettable. But in the case of portraying Roger Ailes, I'd have to give Russell Crowe top honors.

For me, there were just too damn many characters. No doubt the screenwriter Charles Randolph (The Big Short) felt it was necessary to include all the players in this modern day drama. Keeping track of them, however, was a detractor. And the whole lesbian sub-story was totally unnecessary.

My advice? Get Showtime's "The Loudest Voice" from your local library.

Grade: B-