Transforming her voice into a husky boom, Charlize Theron (‘Mad Max: Fury Road’) continues to be the best thing in movies about irresponsible men. As ‘Bombshell’s subtly aggrieved Megyn Kelly – the Fox News anchor who largely turned the tide on eventually ousting chief creep Roger Ailes – she consistently hints at the smarter Time’s Up drama this might have been if it were stewarded by a media-savvy director who didn’t feel the need to cast its female characters as walking, talking symbols (was David Fincher not available?).
Instead, the film has Jay Roach (HBO’s ‘Recount’, ‘Game Change’ and ‘All the Way’), who lends things his TV-ish snap, if not any kind of visual signature. From an overly busy script by ‘The Big Short’ co-writer Charles Randolph, ‘Bombshell’ wants to touch upon every facet of the network’s predatory climate – a noble goal, but one that results in a power-suit pile-up. Nicole Kidman can’t get her Gretchen Carlson working beyond a sternly set jaw, while the composite role played by Margot Robbie slides too easily from naive to shrewd and back again.
There’s occasional intrigue in scenes that depict a failure of solidarity between women: Already jockeying for the spotlight (a competition fraught with anxiety about aging and viewership numbers), the central trio connects only tentatively, while female colleagues and underlings sometimes sell them out. Then again, blond-on-blond infighting seems like a weird emphasis to place on a story in which Ailes should be the enemy (John Lithgow, hang up the fat suits). The material is worthy, but this continuing struggle deserves a more nuanced take.