Adam McKay hasn’t made a good movie since 2010, so I’m not sure why so many people want to try and copy his mold all of a sudden …
“Bombshell” is based on the true story of the women at Fox News who brought down CEO Roger Ailes for sexual misconduct. Charlize Theron portrays Megyn Kelly, Nicole Kidman plays Gretchen Carlson and Margot Robbie is an amalgamation character of real Fox staffers. John Lithgow, Kate McKinnon, Connie Britton, Malcolm McDowell and Allison Janney appear in supporting roles, and Jay Roach directs.
To compare this to “The Big Short” or “Vice,” the pair of Adam McKay films about recent real-world events and shady backroom dealings, would be accurate in more ways than one. Not only did all three get December releases, but both “Vice” and “Bombshell” are about controversial right-wing figures with the main star buried under make-up and prosthetics. And if those weren’t enough similarities for you, the SNL caricatures of real-life people, annoying zoom ins and handheld camerawork and smug narration would also give it away.
Ever since the first trailer for this film came out, all people could talk about was how unrecognizable Charlize Theron was as Megyn Kelly and it’s true, the hair and makeup staff does deserve credit for getting Kelly’s nose and eyes down. Plus Theron (who worked with a vocal coach to get Kelly’s voice and patterns down) does a good job sounding like the former Fox anchor, too. Theron is not bad in her role, none of the actors are; however, like most everyone in this film, she’s just not given much meat to chew on.
The script by Charles Randolph (who, surprise surprise, co-wrote “The Big Short”) is just as jumpy with its structure as that film, choppily jumping from date to date between the first Republican primary in 2015 to Ailes’ resignation in July 2016. His script features the same schtick as “Big Short” does, with characters narrating their feelings or spoon-feeding information to the audience, only here it is much less consistent and comes off gimmicky.
Rudolph also never really goes beneath the surface of the allegations against Ailes or how far-reaching it went. Even with the benefit of hindsight with the Weinstein accusations and Matt Lauer incidents, Rudolph seems determined to stick with simply the Fox anchors and not show (or at the very least imply) that the problem of sexually harassing women in the workplace is widespread across numerous industries. Something like “Spotlight” focused on a select number of priests and victims in a single city, but by the end of the film still managed to have dropped enough lines and clues to give you the feeling that it was just a drop in a pond. This feels isolated the entire time.
Also like “The Big Short,” this film features lots of over-the-shoulder camerawork which produces the TMZ-like swaying and random zooms on people’s faces (and lo and behold, this film was shot by Barry Ackroyd, who shot, you guessed it, “The Big Short”). The filmmakers are going for a realistic feel-like-you’re-there approach to the story with this technique, but is just looks dumb and unprofessional, not to mention embarrassingly obvious to emulate other films.
I’m really not sure who “Bombshell” is for. Right-wingers won’t like it because is demonizes their news network and pundits, left-wingers likely won’t choose to cheer on three right-wing women, and independents probably won’t enjoy it because it’s not that good of a movie. The performances are solid but at the end of the day, this “Bombshell” is more of a dud.
Critic’s Rating: 4/10.