Why is it that Bollywood is not making a single film about sexual harassment and the MeToo movement? Could it be because some prominent movers and shakers of the entertainment industry have their hands sullied in the sex-as-a-power tool sleaze? I know of at least two major screenplays floating around in the major corporate houses, both being rejected as “too close to home.”
Hollywood has gone and done it, though. Their first major film after the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal and the ensuing MeToo movement is a remarkable work of recreation, and I don’t mean that as compliment. Because at its best, what Bombshell does is to do a replica of the incidents that had occurred at that time, down to a doppelganger image of Fox star-anchor Megyn Kelly, played by the stunning Charlize Theron, who looks so much like the renowned host in this film that she is barely recognizable.
Nicole Kidman essayed Gretchen Carlson, who initiated the move to expose the Fox boss Roger Aisles (played with supreme conviction by John Lithgow) comes across as rather tepid in comparison. Where she should have been persuasive, Nicole is passive and proper as though afraid to get her hands soiled while washing the dirty linen. But the linen does get washed, as a number of women come forward with their tales of titillating torture in their boss’ inner chamber.
I found Bombshell to be too timebound. It needed a lot more space than the 108 minutes allotted by the unsparing editor (Jon Poll) to give all the characters a coherent and cogent voice. There are over 40 major characters (including the veteran Clockwork Orange actor Malcolm Mcdonell as Rupert Murdoch) in this tale of hormonal activity. To be heard they must be seen as individuals rather than a cluster of lately-empowered women trying to get a few words in edgewise.
Regrettably, this is how the narrative comes across. The film ends up mimicking a quintessential newsroom. Everybody is in a hurry. What we get are glimpses, albeit vivid at times, of lives tethered to ambition and pride. While we see just glimpses of Megyn Kelly’s home life (supportive husband, undemanding daughter) we see nothing of Gretchen Carlson’s life outside the newsroom.
The female protagonist with maximum airtime in this film is Margot Robbie’s, Kayla Pospisil. And she isn’t even real. The fiction character has the one truly incriminating sequence of sexual harassment which makes us cringe for all the wrong reasons. The way Lithgow commands Robbie to “show her legs” and his wheezing hard-breathing approval when she obliges, made my flesh crawl. There aren’t any other such “revealing” moments in the film. Most of it neither angers nor motivates. Bombshell left me frustrated. Did I miss something?