Bombshell

 

                This is the kind of movie that causes your stomach to tie in knots while you watch it.  And if you’re a guy, you want to walk out of the theater with a paper bag over your head, because you’re that ashamed of being part of the male species.  Yes, it’s about egregious sexual harassment in the workplace.  In this case, a very famous workplace:  Fox News.

                The disclaimer at the beginning of the film states that it’s a true story, though some of the characters have been altered or combined.  Oh, and everybody we see is an actor, not the real person.  The next thing we see is Charlize Theron playing Megyn Kelly, and the resemblance is remarkable.  Megyn Kelly, of course, was at the top of the heap of Fox News Anchors when she moderated the debate of the Republican candidates in 2016.  Her verbal sparring with then-candidate Donald Trump caused the kind of headlines she didn’t want:  she said she didn’t want to be the story.  But it’s never that simple.  Or easy.

                Nicole Kidman plays Gretchen Carlson, the Fox News Anchor who is now no longer young, and is starting to say what she really thinks on the air.  She’s summarily moved to an afternoon slot, with much less exposure.  And even then, she appears on camera without makeup to make a point about women accepting themselves as they are.  In the ensuing debate about her suddenly-transparent feminism, she’s fired.  Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) sends a couple of minions to inform her.  She decides that this would be a good time to file suit against him for sexual harassment against her.  Back when she first started working there.  He, of course, denies all charges.  She breathlessly awaits other women at Fox coming forward with their own stories of harassment.

                Eventually, they do, all the way from the newest anchor, Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie) to former reporters and yes, finally, to Megyn Kelly herself, which lends credibility to the whole chorus, because she’s the one with the most to lose.  The dynamics of reporting sexual harassment are awful:  you get questioned about your veracity, the way you dress, what you might have said to “provoke,” or “entice,” even subconscious signals you might have been sending.  And of course you risk not only your career, but being tagged as the poster girl for sexual harassment. 

                But watching some of the actual sexual harassment taking place is just horrific.  Asking women to get up and turn around so you can see their figures.  Asking them to pull up their dress so you can see their legs.  And yes, it gets worse.  Thankfully, we don’t have to watch that part.  But we get the idea.  And we get the full impression of the humiliation these women were put through in order to get the job they wanted. 

                Yes, Roger Ailes was brought down over the scandal, and by the way, so was Bill O’Reilly.  But as is pointed out at the end of the film, the severance they paid to those two guys exceeded the damages they paid to the harassed women.  So you get up from your seat thinking, “That’s just wrong.”  And so it is.  But the question is, how much has our culture really changed?

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association