It’s not uncommon for me to stare at a beautiful woman like Charlize Theron, but in Bombshell I was fixated on her face for the wrong reason: I kept trying to figure out why it looked odd. That’s because her features were altered to make her resemble former Fox News “star” Megyn Kelly. The changes are subtle but I found them distracting, all the more so because I have little acquaintance with the high-profile anchorwoman. Did the resemblance have to be so exact for Theron’s performance to be convincing?

The film as a whole suffers from tunnel vision. Charles Randolph’s screenplay is so tightly focused on happenings at Fox News that if you didn’t follow the players in this real-life drama—and I didn’t—you may find it difficult to care.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is an issue that demands the spotlight until it is eradicated. But that doesn’t make the story of Roger Ailes and the women he manipulated automatically compelling. The subject has already been dramatized in the miniseries The Loudest Voice, with Russell Crowe as Ailes. Bombshell features another fine actor, John Lithgow, in that role, under a ton of makeup and a fat suit.

There’s no faulting Theron’s performance or those of Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie. They are all first-rate. The supporting cast is peppered with solid performers even in small-ish roles, including Kate McKinnon, Allison Janney, Alice Eve, Jennifer Morrison, Mark Duplass, Malcolm McDowell, Alanna Ubach, Connie Britton, Stephen Root, Robin Weigert, and Richard Kind.

Director Jay Roach has proven himself adept at telling contemporary tales in films like Recount and Game Change, and he gives this one the immediacy and authenticity it demands. Bombshell also has one chilling and memorable scene in which Ailes humiliates newcomer Robbie under the ruse of an audition. It’s the highlight of the picture.

Ironically, Bombshell resembles nothing so much as a TV movie with an inflated budget and an all-star ensemble. That’s hardly a recommendation to run out and see it in theaters.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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June 2024