Theron’s captivating, yet misunderstood performance, in the captivity of young woke feminists
Roach’s 11th feature film covers the story which preceded #MeToo era, and in all fairness may have even started it. A lot of social justice warriors will beg to differ, because how can Fox ladies even dare complain about sexual harassment?! By working at Fox you are supporting “he who shall not be named”, but we will have to, because the film does cover the controversial clash of the titans – former Fox news anchor Megyn Kelly (played by Charlize Theron) and, at the time, presidential candidate, Donald Trump, who, as the film (even in the trailer) reveals blaming her anger on her menstrual cycle.
The saddest thing about “Bombshell” isn’t the actual story behind the film, but the reaction of “woke” youth, especially women in the film critic circles who claim to be feminists (also mostly millennials). Expect Theron’s and Kidman’s roles to be confused for the public perception of their real-life characters and get ready to read about Kelly’s real life-long silence about the matter, while it’s Theron’s acting that should truly be discussed.
It seems that most people have a problem with Megyn Kelly, who is played so well by Charlize Theron that you will often have to ask yourself, “is that an actress or the real Megyn Kelly?” And no, I’m not just saying it’s because of the amazing prosthetic make up by Kazu Hiro (who won an Oscar for Darkest Hour), Anne Morgan and Vivian Baker. Bombshell depicts how it looks like to work at one of the most powerful (if not the most powerful) tv network in the country, which (this will catch everyone by surprise), is run by men. Please, let’s give our snowflakes a reason to scream and shout – yes, those evil, white, fat, privileged, misogynist rich men, like Richard Ailes, masterfully played by John Litgow. For lesser informed ones, Ailes was the media consultant for presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George W.H. Bush, as well as for Rudy Giuliani’s first mayoral campaign, and (drum roll) even became Donald Trump’s presidential campaign adviser. Who heavily helped him prepare the debates. So, Ailes was pretty much a bad guy way before Trump, since he was never really on the right side of the American history… or was he?
After Gretchen Carlson (played by Nicole Kidman) drops a major bombshell about sexual harassment and sues Mr. Ailes personally, the story keeps on unfolding. Will other women step out to testify and support her or not? Why did she sue him after she got fired and not earlier? (I would love to see someone attempting that in an environment such as Fox and getting away with it, while still being able to find a job after) but, what seems to be the major worry of usually poorly informed, yet overly opinionated Americans today. Now we’re entering the film’s Twilight zone… how can someone who works for Fox (a privileged, white woman, Trump supporting conservative, heartless immigrant and diversity hater by default) dare to even raise a finger? Yes, many women felt triggered because there is a scene where Gretchen Carlson gets called out in the supermarket by a random woman for working at Fox, when in hindsight she is actually trying to figure how to take Ailes down. So much for women solidarity, right? Kidman offers much more than the trailer allows you to see. It’s not her career best, and certainly not in line with To Die For, Moulin Rouge, Birth, Rabbit Hole, or even last year’s overlooked Destroyer, but nevertheless, it is a strong performance.
Out of three leading ladies, Margot Robbie’s character Kayla is the only fictional one. The character is a decent depiction of a young woman who comes from the extremely right-wing and white family, looking to become the next big thing while embodying everything today’s 20 something would do and say for a promotion. On her way up, she gets caught in the Ailes’s web of manipulation which leads to her being sexually harassed. Robbie’s character is either very easy to sympathize with, or not at all. She’s somewhere between an opportunist and a confused whistleblower and a very naïve, God fearing, victim. Robbie delivers, while she still needs a role to push her several spots above I, Tonya and especially the ignored Mary, Queen of Scotts.
The main trio, plus Litgow, is supported by strong cast such as Kate McKinnon, Allison Janney, Connie Britton and all the other women whose names we may not know, but who made this ensemble even stronger. But let’s actually disclose what may cost Theron her long overdue third Oscar nomination (she was nominated for an Academy Award last time almost 14 years ago, for North Country), and that is the nature of the character itself. Kelly has often been criticized for not fully embracing or supporting feminists nor the word feminist itself. She describes it in her memoir “Settle for more” as: “My problem with the word feminist is that it’s exclusionary and alienating.” While many will find that tricky, just look how the other reviews of Bombshell written by women who claim to be feminists look like. Not to justify Kelly, but her contribution to female-empowerment in the right-wing media is still undeniable. We can argue how compassionate she was or wasn’t, or competitive as described by Carlson, but she surely pushed the envelope along with other ladies from Fox. And yes, that all came way before Weinstein scandal.
Charles Randolph, who won an Oscar for writing a screenplay for McKay’s The Big Short, does the most with what he chose to adapt. The flaws in the screenplay often get confused with film only touching the surface or being superficial, which is not the case. Randolph captured the entire Roger Ailes downfall. It was pretty much a manual for what FOX is, as well as a solid four-character study in less than two hours. He still manages to give a few good jokes such as the soon to become famous line: “Sushi is not a liberal food”. If we put the prosthetics aside, the true star of this film is a real-life chameleon – Charlize Theron, who devours Kelly’s character by simply becoming Megyn Kelly, while also avoiding the risk of becoming a caricature simply for wearing a heavy mask that makes her unrecognizable. Yes, she actually does become Kelly, adopts the famous husky voice and all the mannerisms. In a perfect world, she would be a strong contender for a second Oscar (which as of now is Renee Zellweger for Judy), and it wouldn’t be any sort of a redemption Oscar as in Zellweger’s case, since her first one sadly came for one of her most mediocre roles (Cold Mountain), but would rather reward her undeniable talent and also her being overlooked for solid 14 years and roles in Young Adult, Mad Max and Tully (all worthy of a nomination at least).
As for the people concerned that the film’s intention is to present Kelly as a hero, that’s not the case. It actually shows how hesitant she was to jump on a bandwagon for sexual assault, which at the end of the day does not discredit all of her efforts she made after. Not every hero is the same, and some heroes help our voices be heard a little later than we may have planned, but guess what? What kind of unexpected hero would she be, if her timing could be dictated. The reality is, there is no such thing as the perfect hero… or victim.
Viktor Vilotijevic Harrison ***** . 3,5/5