If you don’t think the story behind “Bombshell” is the stuff of drama, consider that it also did much to fuel a cable series (namely, Showtime’s “The Loudest Voice”) before the movie was released.
With its double-entendre title, it’s the tale of the sexual harassment at Fox News that ultimately deposed the late Roger Ailes as the chief of the organization … and as much as he’s at the center of the saga, as played by the ever-excellent John Lithgow, “Bombshell” is even more the story of the female employees who fought back, some of them very visible Fox stars.
One is Megyn Kelly, and while actors often are cast for their resemblance to the real-life people they play, it is absolutely astonishing how much Charlize Theron looks like Kelly here. It’s not just the hairstyle or the posture that have been among the journalist’s trademarks; it’s a matter of capturing everything about her to perfection, making “Bombshell” worth seeing for Theron (who’s also a producer of the film) alone. She’s Oscar-nominated for the portrayal, as is the hair-and-makeup team that worked with her here.
Nicole Kidman plays former morning-show co-anchor Gretchen Carlson, who did much to lead the charge vocally against those she accused of improper behavior, and Margot Robbie (also a current Oscar nominee for the movie) has a composite character based on several other Fox News employees who were in Ailes’ orbit. Unfortunately, in the end, going that route weakens “Bombshell”: If you’re going to stay factual with other figures in the situation, you shouldn’t invent one to go alongside them.
With that said, the overall story remains compelling, also involving such figures as media titan Rupert Murdoch (a perfect part for Malcolm McDowell) and personalities including Jeanine Pirro and Ainsley Earhardt (Alanna Ubach, Alice Eve). There’s certainly the aspect to “Bombshell” that generates interest in the casting of those playing familiar faces, but “Saturday Night Live” staple Kate McKinnon also is on hand as another character developed specifically for the script, a Fox News producer.
Again, director Jay Roach (who’s done a terrific job on such fact-inspired HBO projects as “Game Change” and “Recount”) and screenwriter Charles Randolph (“The Big Short”) take a gamble by stretching dramatic license to generate scenes so fictionalized, even if they have a basis in truth. It’s hard to discount that when what actually happened at Fox News has been so widely documented.
Still, “Bombshell” does have its share of powerful moments — many of them furnished by Charlize Theron, who’s about as good as it gets in playing a well-known public figure.