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

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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.


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.

Now Available: July 31, 2018

Welcome to Now Available, where we’ll give you a quick review of a film we didn’t cover when it was released in theaters that’s releasing for home viewing this week, along with a list of everything else and where you can see our coverage on it. 

When Marlo (Charlize Theron) is given the gift of a night nanny by her brother Craig (Mark Duplass), the mother of three, including a newborn and a special needs child, is reluctant to accept the help. Through Craig’s prodding, she relents and hires Tully (Mackenzie Davis) to take care of her infant daughter through the night so that she can receive some much needed rest. Tully’s influence soon bleeds out into the whole family as her youthful spirit and zest for life energizes Marlo and rubs off on her husband and kids.

Boasting stand-out performances by Theron and Mackenzie, Jason Reitman’s Tully is a return to form for the director, who’s feature filmography had stalled out a bit after 2013’s lukewarm melodrama Labor Day and 2014’s god-awful Men, Women and Children. Here he’s teamed up with writer Diablo Cody, with whom he’s made two of his best films in Juno and Young Adult, which also starred Theron. I have five kids, so I’ve been through this time of life several times and I can say that Reitman and Cody absolutely nail the tone here in all facets of the story. There comes a point when you bring a newborn home from the hospital where life is just rough and it’s hard to see past the messy house, the cranky kids who feel neglected and the baby who needs constant care to a day where life can be normal again. Tully lets its audience sit in that moment like new parents have to and it’s really quite impressive. We see from the opening shots, a tender scene where she lovingly runs a soft brush over the skin of her son to help calm him before bed, that Marlo is a good and caring mother, but she’s utterly exhausted and the deep post-partum depression she’s experiencing isn’t helping matters either. Her husband Drew (Ron Washington) means well, but he doesn’t know how to give his wife the relief that she needs. It’s a scenario that’s highly relatable to a vast majority of married couples and that Reitman is able to make it feel real rather than manufactured is a testament to his talent as a filmmaker. In Marlo, Theron gives one of the best performances of her career. Showing an unrivaled commitment to the role, she gained 50 lbs for the part, she completely disappears into the struggling mother, treading water and gasping for air while holding very little hope for a lifeline. Mackenzie Davis is wide-eyed and full of life as Tully. Her wisdom would sound so naive, but she delivers it with such sincerity and love. It’s really quite a good film and it’s one of my favorites of the year.

With a solid script by Diablo Cody and stand-out performances by Charlize Theron and Mackenzie Davis, Jason Reitman’s Tully is a must see. It deserves to be mentioned with his best and hopefully signals a return to form for the director.

Buy It, Rent It, Wait for Netflix or Skip It?

Rent It!

Also available this week:

Overboard- If you like the original Kurt Russell/Goldie Hawn comedy, I recommend that you watch that one again. This remake that sees the roles reversed when Anna Faris tricks amnesiac Eugenio Derbez into believing he’s her husband is a totally laugh-less 105 minutes that would’ve been better spent doing literally anything else.

Other New Releases:The Miracle Season, Final Portrait, Dark Crimes, Kings

Jeremy Calcara is a contributing member of the Feelin’ Film team. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

Minisode 25: Safety Not Guaranteed

July’s Donor Pick Episode is here and FF contributor Steve Clifton joins us to talk about a movie he loves. This quirky romantic time travel film offers us a chance to talk about how nostalgia affects our lives and much more. Our listeners picked a good one and we have a great conversation about it.


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