(US/Canada - 2019)
Directed by Jay Roach. Written by Charles Randolph. Cast: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow, Allison Janney, Malcolm McDowell, Kate McKinnon, Connie Britton, Mark Duplass, Liv Hewson, Brigitte Lundy-Paine, Rob Delaney, Stephen Root, Robin Weigert, Amy Landecker, Mark Moses, Richard Kind, Holland Taylor, Alanna Ubach, Anne Ramsay, Andy Buckley, Brooke Smith, Ben Lawson, Josh Lawson, Nazanian Boniadi, Brian d'Arcy James, Alice Eve, Elisabeth Rohm, Bree Condon, Ashley Greene, Tricia Helfer, Jennifer Morrison, Lisa Canning, Ahna O'Reilly, John Rothman, Tony Plana, Kevin Dorff, P.J. Byrne, Spencer Garrett, Michael Buie, Marc Evan Jackson, Katie Aselton. (R, 109 mins)
A chronicle of the Fox News sexual harassment scandal that brought down chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, BOMBSHELL belongs to that same "ripped from the headlines" subgenre that gave us THE BIG SHORT and VICE, generally decent films that provide easy Oscar bait for big-name actors to do uncanny impressions of ubiquitous figures. BOMBSHELL is very much in line with those films, and could make an unofficial trilogy with director Jay Roach's two previous HBO political docudramas, 2008's RECOUNT and 2012's GAME CHANGE. Those were instant Emmy and Golden Globe magnets, with RECOUNT giving Laura Dern a chance to do a remarkable take on Florida Attorney General Katharine Harris, and GAME CHANGE showcasing Julianne Moore and Ed Harris as dead-on versions of Sarah Palin and John McCain, respectively. But because these stories are so recent and the 24-hour news cycle so constantly there and in our faces, BOMBSHELL falls into the same trap as the rest of these kinds of movies: it entertains but offers nothing that we don't already know. Given Roach's history with HBO, it's surprising that BOMBSHELL is even in theaters. It follows the same formula and style as RECOUNT and GAME CHANGE, eschewing the snarky smartassery that Adam McKay brought to THE BIG SHORT and VICE, opting instead for occasional fourth-wall breaking while generally keeping it straightforward and serious.
THE LOUDEST VOICE, with Russell Crowe as Ailes and Naomi Watts as Gretchen Carlson, the fired Fox News personality who was the first to sue him for sexual harassment. THE LOUDEST VOICE was more about the entire Ailes story, starting with the establishment of Fox News, while BOMBSHELL just deals with the scandal, with the focus being on Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron), who finds herself under fire as the film opens in 2015, just after her debate scuffle with Donald Trump that led to his infamous "blood coming out of her...wherever" comment. Ailes (John Lithgow, with prosthetic jowls and a NUTTY PROFESSOR fat suit) sympathizes with the way Trump supporters are raging at her on Twitter, but wants her to play nice, as Fox and Trump are well on their way to a perpetual state of symbiotic co-dependence. At the same time, Carlson (Nicole Kidman) is ruffling feathers on the afternoon dead zone she's been given after being bounced from the highly-rated morning show FOX & FRIENDS, and when she's eventually fired, she decides to blow the doors off the worst-kept secret in the building: that Ailes is a serial sexual harasser and all-around creep, and that the network's "boys club"--the costly harassment settlements of Bill O'Reilly (played here by Kevin Dorff) are unspoken common knowledge among the grunts in the newsroom--has made for a toxic work environment. The mood is also fueled by deranged, right-wing paranoia that comes straight from Ailes, who at one point makes an off-the-cuff remark to his legal team about an Obama White House plot to have him murdered, a comment so batshit crazy that even his attorney Rudy Giuliani (Richard Kind) is seen looking away in incredulous discomfort.