Review: How accurate is the film Bombshell?

30 January 2020

Bombshell (2019) succeeds at a lot of things: incredible prosthetics and makeup, captivating audiences while evoking intense emotion, and using clever wordplay in the title of the film. The movie follows three blonde “bombshells” through the challenges and devastation of sexual harassment which ultimately ends in a different kind of bombshell.

There were a lot of facts that were slightly off, entirely off, or even just created from scratch altogether. In fact, Margot Robbie’s character, Kayla Popisil, wasn’t actually a real person. Instead, she is a human representation of several different women who were sexually harassed at Fox News. Although the movie may not be entirely accurate, that doesn’t prevent the film from being engaging, heart wrenching, and important.

At its core, Bombshell is about women being able to stand up for themselves. It is about empowerment. But it also explores some other very powerful truths. It is not always easy, or even possible, to stand up for oneself or even for others.

The film starts out with Megyn Kelly, played by Charlize Theron, preparing for the presidential debate and challenging Trump with questions about the way he treats and talks about women. Here, Kelly tried to stand up for what she believed was right and yet her decision to question Trump’s inappropriate behaviours led her to being stalked, ridiculed, and tormented by Trump and his supporters for over a year.

One of the other star characters of the film, Nicole Kidman’s Gretchen Carlson, is seen shortly after dealing with the consequences of saying no to Roger Ailes and his sexual advances, proving that there are repercussions for women in the workplace standing up against sexual harassment.

After Carlson and Kelly appear onscreen, Kayla Pospisil finds out after meeting with Roger Ailes that the only way she can advance in her career is by fulfilling Ailes’ sexual requests. Defying these requests will, as he ominously suggests, ruin her career instead. When Pospisil confides in a friend, Jess Carr (played by Kate McKinnon), she is met with no support. Carr is too afraid to step in because even just supporting her friend could lead her with a ruined career.

After an eventful plot which follows the emotional implications of being sexually harassed and being retaliated against, the movie ends on a positive note. The villain of the film, Ailes, is defeated. But the pain the women endured, and the inability to make choices and speak up, can still be felt despite the “happy” ending.

Bombshell is an important movie. Whereas many TV shows and films exploit abusive relationship dynamics and the inappropriate sexualisation of characters as if they were normal and healthy, purely for entertainment, Bombshell is one of the few films I can recall watching in the past few years that addresses the way power can influence relationships, can manipulate individuals, and can destroy lives in a real way. Despite not quite getting facts right, this movie accurately represents very real problems women still face in the workplace and the very real emotions that go along with this devastation.

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