If you refuse to hold a camera steady please stop making movies. It’s really that simple.
Bombshell is the based-on-true-events movie recounting nasty days of 2016 when Trump went after Megyn Kelly, and Roger Ailes continued chasing anything in a skirt. We also know the provenance of Fixed Noise’s love of blondes, boobs, short skirts and gams: yes that would be Horny Mister Ailes.
Steady as it goes
I wanted to like this film because casting was superb and topic super-important. But it failed on many levels despite succeeding in others. Filmmakers were going for a docu-drama with direct-to-camera quips and handheld camera shots, I get that. But this is not The Office and I want to be able to focus on storytelling—not worry about when the next indulgent quick-zoom camera trick was about to happen.
As I reported here before, Bombshell is a repeat failure reminiscent of “The Bourne Migraine” and “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie,” where I was left with a headache and grumbling to myself after leaving the theater. Sexual abuse and manipulation of subordinates are serious topics and filmmaking should reflect that.
Some terrific performances
Let’s just get this out the way: Margot Robbie deserves a supporting-actress Oscar and I don’t even care who the other noms are. She’s that good. The odd part? Hers was the fictional reporter woven in with other real-life, on-air “talent,” Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) and Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron). Theron was another standout performance, although I felt uncomfortable in general feeling sympathetic to a fully unsympathetic real-life character. On that subject, Ailes (John Lithgow) character was well played, if a bit cartoonish for my taste.
2nd idea: stop calling Fixed Noise anchors "talent" unless you want us to be permanently falling over in fits of laughter
— Will's 'Chuck Todd Epiphany' Warehouse & Speakeasy (@bywillpollock) November 6, 2018
Screenplay’s a dud
Why hasn’t Bombshell been nominated for a Golden Globe writing award? Because it ain’t good enough. In places writer Charles Randolph creates some winning alt-moments (particularly between Robbie and Kate McKinnon, who basically lights up whatever scene she’s in), but the film descends into caricature with buck-tooth Rudy Giuliani and Chris Wallace feeling more at home on a MAD TV skit. In scene after scene, Bombshell felt like a movie perpetually in search of gravitas that never came.
Director Jay Roach (Meet the Parents, Austin Powers) was going for hybrid-playful romp and serious-cultural statement but those two ambitions do not play well together here. In general Bombshell had the wrong writer and the wrong director, but its performances survived those poor choices. 🔵 Overall grade: C- (Directing: D Writing: F Acting: B+)
Will Pollock is a perpetually crabby New York City escapee based in Midtown Atlanta. He’s a freelance multimedia journalist, media analyst and author of two books (award-wining Pizza for Good & Leaving Triscuit), with more on the way.
In 2001, Will earned his Masters from The Medill School of Journalism, graduating with highest honors from the magazine sequence. As permanent member of Journalism’s National Honors Society, he’s been active in monitoring, writing and blogging about media and journalism ever since he graduated.
Obsessed with good storytelling and journalistic excellence, Will uses snark, humor and reason to distill dumb shit and make it fun. He’s a seeker/maker of non-consensus news, and helps you cure crankies by finding the nut in every story.
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