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"BOMBSHELL"
(2019) (Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Drama: Various women who work for Fox News must figure out how to contend with sexual harassment at the hands of their boss.
PLOT:
Megyn Kelly (CHARLIZE THERON) and Gretchen Carlson (NICOLE KIDMAN) are powerhouse TV show hosts for the Fox News Network. But while Megyn has kept secret her dealings with sexual harassment at the hands of her boss, Roger Ailes (JOHN LITHGOW), Gretchen has decided to speak out.

Accordingly, she ends up with a less desirable time slot and is eventually fired, all of which results in her filing a lawsuit against Ailes and Fox News. Her belief is that once that dam has been broken, so to speak, a flood of similar complaints will quickly flow forth.

With most everyone afraid of Ailes and the power that he wields, however, Gretchen initially ends up on her own, with Megyn wary of rocking the boat, and thus endangering her career. Meanwhile, young ambitious employee Kayla Pospisil (MARGOT ROBBIE) tries to climb the corporate ladder using her evangelical conservative angle -- despite having a lesbian fling with covert Democratic coworker Jess Carr (KATE McKINNON) -- unaware of what trying to get Ailes approval will ultimately mean for her.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
Early on in Clint Eastwood's recent "Richard Jewell," Sam Rockwell's world-weary lawyer tell-asks the title character not to become as "asshole" while pursuing his dream of becoming a law enforcement officer. And that's because he knows that, yes, with power comes great responsibility, but also the likelihood of being seduced and changed by possessing that. It's something that Eastwood not-so-subtly points out in his film about both the FBI and the press.

Of course, power comes in many forms and pretty much everyone has experienced one of the more basic examples of that at one or more times in their lives -- the boss-subordinate scenario. And the bigger the boss -- and the more bodies they've had to claw their way over to get to their current position -- the more likely they are to let their power go to their head.

Just look at all of the recent and current stories and allegations of male bosses abusing female employees in any number of ways, including, natch, demanding sexual favors in exchange for getting certain positions, promotions or even just keeping one's job.

Aside from the Harvey Weinstein mess that's still unfolding as of this writing, one of the more prominent ones of recent involved Roger Ailes eventually being forced out from the top position at Fox News. The dramatization of that now hits movie screens in the form of "Bombshell," named both for the old derogatory-meets-intended complimentary phrase used for attractive blonde women and the explosive aftermath of a woman lobbing allegations and lawsuits against her abuser(s), especially in a particularly influential company.

As directed by Jay Roach from a screenplay by Charles Randolph, the film centers on three women -- two real and quite prominent (played by Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman), the third (Margot Robbie) a composite of others -- who end up affected in similar yet different ways by past and current harassment at the hands of Ailes (John Lithgow).

Theron plays Megyn Kelly and her character serves as our introduction -- via breaking the fourth wall and talking directly to the camera and thus the viewer -- to the current situation and general situational elements of how Fox News operates, including making sure the on-air female talent is attractive, wears short dresses and appears behind clear desks to show as much leg as possible.

With the temporally correct context of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump's sexist comments setting the stage for the alpha male mindset toward women, the story takes place around the presidential debate where Trump dragged Kelly into that sexist mess, all while fellow TV show host Gretchen Carlson (Kidman) becomes increasingly ticked off by being relegated to a less favorable (and thus lower viewed) time slot.

When she ends up fired for not playing along, her lawsuit arrives, all of which leaves Kelly conflicted about how to proceed. Ditto Robbie's young producer character -- an evangelical Christian who isn't above sleeping with a Democrat in hiding coworker (Kate McKinnon) -- about whether to keep up with her corporate ladder climbing, what with realizing there's likely now a guy who will be looking up her dress.

Plenty of other characters are also present in the 108-minute long film -- played by the likes of Allison Janney, Malcolm McDowell and Connie Britton among others -- but the film's main focus is on the three women and how the revelations, allegations and lawsuit ultimately affect them in the workplace.

The performances are good across the board but it's Theron who really shines. Accompanied by excellent makeup and prosthetics and an obvious in-depth study of how the real-life woman speaks, moves and more, the actress becomes Kelly to the point that you really forget you're watching the same performer who previously played a one-armed, post-apocalyptic, kick-butt heroine (in "Mad Max: Fury Road"), Snow White's evil stepmother (in "Snow White and the Huntsman") and a serial killer (in "Monster" where she similarly disappeared into the character and role).

Everything related to the film is done well, but something about the collective offering felt just short of brilliance to me, and I've yet to really pinpoint what that is. It certainly should be a call to arms for women (and even men) who've yet to come forward to expose those in higher positions who've abused them, as well as a cautionary tale for those in charge who are riding their own power trip wave and think they can act without repercussions.

Only time will tell if the film has any sort of impact on either side of the equation, but if you have a hankering for watching women put their abuser in his place, as well as some terrific performances supporting all of that, "Bombshell" should fit the bill. It rates as a 6.5 out of 10.




Reviewed December 2, 2019 / Posted December 20, 2019


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