“Bombshell” opened on December 13 fresh off of a week when it earned four Critics’ Choice Award nominations, four SAG Award nominations, and two Golden Globe nominations. But what do critics at large think of this satirical take on the Fox News sexual harassment scandal that brought down Roger Ailes (played by John Lithgow)?
As of this writing the film has a MetaCritic score of 66 based on 27 reviews counted thus far: 17 positive, 9 somewhat mixed, only 1 outright negative. Meanwhile, Rotten Tomatoes categorizes reviews simply as pass or fail and not with the sliding scale that MetaCritic uses; its freshness rating is 62% based on 74 reviews, 28 of which are classified as negative. RT summarizes the reviews with its critics’ consensus: “‘Bombshell’ benefits from a terrific cast and a worthy subject, but its impact is muffled by a frustrating inability to go deeper than the sensationalistic surface.”
There’s a lot of admiration for the film, especially its performances. Charlize Theron‘s transformation into Fox News personality Megyn Kelly is “remarkable” and “utterly compelling,” while Margot Robbie as composite character Kayla Pospisil is “the film’s biggest surprise.” And supporters of the film as a whole call it “superb,” with “pioneering truthfulness” that’s “not didactic.” But others describe the film as “uneven” and “aiming to be all things to all people.” It doesn’t always reckon with the “conservative white feminism” at its core, in which its characters push back against one form of oppression at a political news organization that promotes others.
The ambivalence of some of the reviews is reminiscent of “Vice,” whose MetaCritic and Rotten Tomatoes scores were similar as reviewers wrestles with its satirical approach to Vice President Dick Cheney. That film went on to receive eight Oscar nominations including Best Picture, and it won for its makeup and hairstyling. Will “Bombshell” do just as well for tackling conservative politics in a similar vein? Check out some of the reviews below, and join the discussion on this and more with your fellow movie fans in our forums.
Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle): “A superb drama about sexual harassment at Fox News. ‘Bombshell’ explores blond icons beyond their iconography. It shows the pain behind the representation, the abyss that can lie beneath women in television. This is blondness made visible, a construction that has a cost … One of the many strong points of ‘Bombshell’ is that its pioneering truthfulness doesn’t devolve into polemics, and it’s not didactic”
Terri White (Empire): “Her commitment to the film, to the role, is clear and so it’s no huge surprise that this is Theron’s show. She’s utterly compelling as the heart of a tryptic of female power rounded out by Nicole Kidman as on-the-outs host Gretchen Carlson and Margot Robbie as wannabe-anchor Kayla … Margot Robbie emerges as the film’s biggest surprise, her initial one-note wide smiles and agreeable nature disintegrating dramatically.”
Elizabeth Weitzman (The Wrap): “Jay Roach’s compelling but uneven takedown of former Fox News and Fox Television Stations czar Roger Ailes is less a fiery expression of political outrage than a work of entertainment aiming to be all things to all people … Even so, ‘Bombshell’ is likely to attain much of the Academy appreciation it seems to seek. Theron masters Kelly’s stern alto with remarkable success … Robbie is equally excellent.”
Alison Willmore (Vulture): “You can occasionally see flashes of the better, sharper movie ‘Bombshell’ could have been … In these scenes, ‘Bombshell’ seems to understand that what it’s telling is not so much a proto–Me Too story as it is one about conservative white feminism, and about the ideological Jenga of trying to push back at a particular form of oppression while trying to leave all the structures that support it undisturbed.”
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