I’m sure there will be a growing number of Hollywood films made that show how the oppression of women is being acknowledged and ‘fixed’ (the trailer for Miss Behaviour (2020) looks like a particularly heavy-handed girl power movie that ticks all the boxes). Bombshell does a fair job, despite its awful title.*
The bombshell in reality is that dropped by real life Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) when she sued Fox News boss Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) for sexual harassment. Her accusations were the tip of the iceberg of a workplace culture where women were obligated to provide sexual favours if they wanted a career on screen. The culture was so ingrained that those who benefited from it couldn’t quite see why it was unreasonable.
For anyone who has stood up to workplace bullying and harassment, it will come as no surprise that no other women were willing to come forward. The power of the ageing white men at the top of the hierarchy meant that you either didn’t see it if you were male or would sacrifice your career if you spoke out about it.
The tension of the film comes as we follow shining star, anchor Meghan Kelly (Charlize Theron) go head-to-head with a pre-presidential Donald Trump. She learns that those with the power to affect her career don’t like it when women speak up and so must choose between her career and her rights as a woman. We see lots of different women’s views and the various choices they have had to make. Not all of the men are bad and it is not surprising that the still very powerful Murdochs – Rupert (Malcolm McDowell) and sons James and Lachlan (played by brothers Josh and Ben Lawson) – are shown as decent blokes. The proselytising is kept to a minimum – lingering shots of young female children as adult women try to decide what to do – and there are some profoundly moving moments.
There is no fairytale ending and the epilogue makes real the seemingly hopeless task of bringing rich men to account.
* The film was to be named Fair and Balanced, which actually makes some narrative sense. It’s supposed to be a clever pun I expect, against the arresting poster of stars Kidman, Theron and Robbie tricked up to look like identical blonde bombshells.
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.