“Someone has to speak up, someone has to get mad.”
That’s the premise behind Bombshell, a biographical drama based on the accounts of several women at Fox News who exposed CEO Roger Ailes for sexual harassment. The movie is frontlined by heavy hitters Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, and Margot Robbie – all of whom were nominated for various acting awards this season – who play real-life newscasters Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson, and fictionalised newbie Kayla Pospisil respectively.
Much like a typical American newsroom, Bombshell is fast-paced, leaving you hardly any time to remember the side characters’ names. A word of caution: if you aren’t familiar with Fox News (or any American TV news), you may not recognise the names of famous newscasters that whizz by throughout the film. But if you are familiar, you’ll realise how close to their real-life counterparts the film characters look – it’s no wonder the movie was nominated for its make-up.
The story whisks you from the busy office setting to the bland yet foreboding office of Roger Ailes (John Lithgow), where the sexual assaults take place. One of the most memorable and cringe-worthy scenes involves Pospisil in his office, where she’s instructed to raise her skirt high enough to expose her underwear. Robbie shines again when she finally reveals what she went through at Ailes’ office.
While the entire movie’s premise is based on the sexual assault lawsuit filed by Carlson against Ailes, the story mainly revolves around Kelly, who was criticised by Donald Trump as a feminist and humiliated on air and social media. She then has to navigate the media landscape in order to keep her job while appeasing Trump supporters (and predatory men).
However, it’s actually Pospisil’s role in the film that really drives home the #metoo scenario at Fox News; young and ambitious but slightly clueless, she is the epitome of a naive victim who would do anything to succeed. We all know that sex sells, and it’s often the women who pay the price.
There are multiple elements to the film that may seem a bit much to take in – you’ve got Carlson and her lawyers, Ailes and his lawyers, Kelly and her Trump faux pas, Pospisil and Ailes – but at the end, all of those point to the fact that sexual assault is often brushed under the carpet. The film does have its humorous moments, delivered with irony by Theron’s character as she narrates the film in bits and pieces.
In light of this era of #metoo, its surprising how long it took for women to be heard and taken seriously – especially women who, in theory, have the voice to really bring predatory men down publically. Bombshell reminds us of how men of stature and privilege often manage to get away with sexual assault, but an army of women in solidarity can bring them down.