Episode 205: Bombshell

Potentially lost in the shuffle of big-name releases this Christmas is one of the most important films of the year, and also one of our favorites. We chat about this riveting story of toxic sexism and how brave women at Fox News took down its infamous sexually abusive CEO. This slick, entertaining film is so much more than just a history lesson, though. It is first and foremost a story that gave us perspective, and with that plenty to talk about.

Bombshell Review – 0:01:32

The Connecting Point – 1:15:12

Follow & Subscribe


Join the Facebook Discussion Group

Download This Episode


Support us on Patreon & get awesome rewards:

or you can support us through Paypal as well. Select the link below and make your one-time or recurring contribution.

Rate/Review us on iTunes and on your podcast app of choice! It helps bring us exposure so that we can get more people involved in the conversation. Thank you!

MOVIE REVIEW: Bombshell

Once upon a time… in Arkansas, I grew up wanting to be a journalist. And specifically, a journalist that covered politics. I ran for school government, closely followed every election, was downtown partying in the streets of Little Rock when Governor Bill Clinton was elected President, and even volunteered on a state Senator’s successful campaign. Plans went askew, though, and somewhere after 9/11 the political discourse became too volatile and upsetting for me, so I began to tune out. For the past decade, I’ve only mildly followed the news and my awareness of major scandals was entirely through the lens of social media. So going into this film, I shockingly was ignorant to the story that “Bombshell” tells, but I’m sure glad that is no longer the case.

“Bombshell” isn’t directed by Adam McKay, but you’d be forgiven for thinking it was. A major reason why is that writer Charles Randolph (who won an Oscar for writing McKay’s best film, “The Big Short”) employs much of the same fourth-wall-breaking dialogue that has become a McKay signature. Director Jay Roach kicks off “Bombshell” with an entire segment of just this – featuring Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) giving us a tour of Fox News and an explanation of how the station operates. It’s an engaging way to introduce the audience to several characters and an important background for understanding the structures of power that exist in this Trump-friendly media empire. Roach shows more restraint than McKay after that, though, and settles into a much more traditionally fluid narrative.

The true story being recounted here is a #MeToo nightmare revolving around a culture of sexual abuse and harassment at Fox News that started at the top with CEO Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) and led to a misogynistic work environment for the women employed there. Female employees were regularly subjected to insults from Ailes, promoted based on their appearance and/or willingness to participate in coerced sexual favors, and expected to show as much leg as possible during broadcasts. Frankly, it is disgusting to watch occur, even in this dramatized manner, and many viewers will likely cringe while relating to the dialogue and power games on display that they may have witnessed themselves. For others, it will hopefully be eye-opening to the behavior women still face in many workplaces across America. Lithgow plays Ailes brilliantly, as the slick-talking untouchable snake of an executive he was. He is creepy and rage-inducing, and it’s easy to cheer for his eventual downfall that is coming.

To bring down Ailes and the toxic culture at Fox, it took many brave women speaking up and risking their careers and reputations. The story in “Bombshell” centers on three of them: two highly-regarded television journalists, Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman), and Kayla (Margot Robbie), who serves as a composite character to represent the experience new female employees went through when trying to climb the ladder of success at Fox News. Over the course of the film, Carlson’s initial lawsuit looms over Ailes, and we experience the struggle of women trying to fight back against men of power, with Kelly’s backing being critical to Carlson’s cause. As I mentioned earlier, it is not always easy to watch what these women endured. Roach took great care to present as detailed of a view of what it was really like at that time as possible, including troubling scenes showing women who supported Roger Ailes despite his blatant harassment.

Theron is incredible in her role as Kelly, fully transforming her voice and facial structure via the use of several prosthetics. It’s a committed performance and one that carries the film, as she tries to hide the emotional weight of what it costs for her to come out in support of Carlson against Ailes. Kidman and Robbie, though, are also amazing, providing two additional viewpoints from which to understand the damage being done. All three women portray both the vulnerable and strong parts of their characters incredibly well, and I found myself feeling heartbroken and angry for them.

If you enjoy costuming and production design, those are on point, as well. The costumes are more than just for looks as they play a direct role in how women were judged in the Fox culture. The production design is slick and shiny, just as you’d expect a newsroom to be, and the editing is likewise done through efficient cuts that feel akin to a news broadcast. What I’m trying to say is that “Bombshell” is the total package. It is an Oscar-worthy film, led by some of the best performances of the year, with strong technical elements, and it tells a very important story from the right perspective. In the end, what Carlson and Kelly courageously did will hopefully be inspirational to women everywhere, and provide them the strength and encouragement to stand up against harassment in their own lives. As for men watching, well, you either stand against it with them or you’re part of the problem. And for me? I may not ever end up with that dream career in journalism, but I now have two new heroes in the field, and I think that you will too when you see their story.

Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

MOVIE REVIEW: Daddy’s Home 2

Daddy’s Home 2 (2017)

Daddy’s Home was a surprisingly funny and mildly heartwarming 2015 comedy that reunited (2010’s The Other Guys, still the best comedy of the 2000’s, don’t @ me.) Mark Wahlberg, Will Ferrell and their proven comic chemistry in a comedy about a stepdad, Barry (Ferrell), attempting to gain the respect of his stepchildren and their father Dusty (Wahlberg). While the film itself is extremely formulaic, Wahlberg and Ferrell kept it from feeling like a bland rehash of something you’ve seen before. It’s a fun little movie to watch when you just want to shut your brain off and laugh. When I heard about the sequel, I was mildly intrigued, figuring that I’d at least enjoy seeing the pairing of Wahlberg and Ferrell again. Unfortunately, Daddy’s Home 2 is nothing more than an ill-conceived cash grab, taking advantage of the reputation of its predecessor, the star power of the cast and the holiday movie season.

I always like to start with the good first, and DH2 isn’t all bad. Ferrell and Wahlberg are still a lot of fun together. John Lithgow’s turn as Ferrell’s overly affectionate and endlessly supportive father Don is fantastic as well. Brad and Don are two enthusiastic peas in a pod and their relationship provides what little spark the film has to offer. There are two scenes that are really very funny, but unfortunately those two scenes book end the film, leaving the middle to feel bloated, bland and boring. Linda Cardellini does fine with what she’s given, and the kids are cute and amusing, but like the original, they aren’t given much to work with. This franchise isn’t about the women or the children, it’s all about the dads.

Unfortunately, that’s about all of the positives that I can muster. Other than a few minutes at the very beginning, Mel Gibson, who plays Wahlberg’s father Kurt, just doesn’t fit in this movie at all. The plot, if you can call it that, involves Kurt intentionally trying to ruin Christmas for…reasons? With motivations that go mostly unexplained, he believes it would be a gas to pit Brad and Dusty against each other to destroy their holiday. Dumb. Confusingly, the film goes out of its way to make Kurt the crotchety old guy, disgusted by today’s new parenting method, but every time someone takes his advice, he’s proven to be correct. Dusty has a wife, who exists only to be hot and to shoplift (yeah, I don’t know). John Cena shows up when the movie is about 3/4 over as the father to Dusty’s stepdaughter. I was excited to see him in the credits as he’s proven to be a pretty enjoyable comedic actor, but he’s completely wasted and doesn’t really need to exist at all. Most of the third act of the film takes place in a movie theater and that’s where it completely falls apart, abandoning anything that resembles narrative structure in favor of easy jokes about the film industry and an eye-roll inducing musical number.

Daddy’s Home 2 isn’t the worst movie I’ve seen this year. If you’re wanting to watch a Christmas movie, it’s better than anything ever produced by the Hallmark Channel. But it’s not good. Save your hard earned money and your precious time and stream this one later if you must. But you’re not missing anything if you skip it altogether.

Rating:


 

Jeremy Calcara is a contributing member of the Feelin’ Film team. In addition watching as many movies as he can and writing reviews for Feelin’ Film, Jeremy consumes an unhealthy amount of television and writes about it weekly in his Feelin’ TV column.   Follow him on Facebook and Twitter  to be notified when new content is posted.