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Tag: Nicole Kidman

Reviews

Review: Bombshell

January 11, 2020

Does it refer to the huge news story? So gigantic it exploded onto the 24-hour news cycle in 2016, dominating the conversation for weeks. Or maybe it means the striking skinny blond newscasters who delivered that story on Fox News? The film’s title, Bombshell, isn’t the only thing that’s hard to pin down in this fictionalised retelling of the sexual harassment scandal that exposed conservative juggernaut Roger Ailes, the head of the controversial cable news channel, as an abuser and predator. 

Bombshell is, politically, a mess. That is to say, its politics are hard to gauge and at times difficult to decipher. The rise of Donald Trump, from an outlier, that no one is taking seriously to the Republican Presidential nominee, plays out in the background, as the severity of Ailes comprehensive harassment becomes clear. Yet, at no point does the film choose to explicitly link the two. It decides to forego the ‘grab them by the pussy’ audiotape or the accusations from at least 23 women, from the 1980s to today, detailing harassment and abuse from Trump himself. It also neglects to mention that after Ailes resigned from Fox News, and took a sizeable pay-out to the tune of $40 million, he walked straight into a job as an advisor for Trump’s presidential campaign

Bombshell / LIONSGATE

You might well wonder if considering the film’s politics necessary. Is this not a bipartisan tale of overcoming sexual harassment? The answer depends on how you view the ‘Fox News’ of it all. Bombshell isn’t any sort of ‘leftist propaganda’ trying to tear down the Fox News monolith. Nor is it really a heroic story of three conservative women, that praises their efforts to cleanse this media giant of bad behaviour. Instead, it sits somewhere weakly in the middle, too scared to really wrestle with the complexity of the situation. One that follows women who worked at the network that helped get Trump elected that has been accused multiple times of doctoring video footage, as well as having severe issues with race and islamophobia. As Alison Willmore wrote for Vulture, the film never significantly engages with the ‘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.

Outside of the murky omissions and the ignored parallels, the movie faces another hurdle. First and foremost, it is essential to note that sexual harassment, no matter who it happens to, is bad. But when it comes to cinema an audience needs someone to root for, someone you care about and, on some level, like. Thus, the other obstacle facing Bombshell simply: how do you make Megyn Kelly a hero? 

The first step? You get Charlize Theron to play her and have her give an immersive, gripping, and enthralling performance. As an actress, she is relatively unmatched in her commitment to transformation, both here and in her Oscar-winning turn as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster. But Theron isn’t just about make-up and prosthetics, her range is wide-reaching as evidenced by her comedic performances in last year’s Long Shot or 2011’s Young Adult. Theron uses those comedy chops to great effect for some of the films lighter or more self-referential moments – including a fourth-wall-breaking introduction to the Fox News machine. 

The second step? You avoid the stories that made Megyn Kelly the conservative controversy magnet she is. You choose instead to focus on her more palatable actions; namely her challenging of Donald Trump’s misogyny during the 2016 presidential primaries and less on her various shall we say… contrary opinions (though the film does, briefly, address her ‘Santa is White’ comments). 

Bombshell / LIONSGATE

It’s also useful to surround Theron with a cast of likeable and renowned actors including Kate McKinnon’s secretly suffering liberal staffer, Rob Delaney’s sympathetic producer, and Alison Janney’s gruff-voiced attorney. Elsewhere Nicole Kidman is strong as Gretchen Carlson, the original whistleblower, but is in third place, narratively behind Kelly and Margot Robbie’s fictional Kayla Pospisil; a young conservative woman with a dream to be on Fox. Pospisil, our gateway into the newsroom, is a composite character cleverly utilised to show the extent of horrific Ailes abuse without having to expose or monetise any specific woman’s interactions with him. 

Behind the camera, the mixed-messages continue with Jay Roach, the director of grounded political TV-Movies like 2012’s Game Change (that saw Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin), teaming up with Charles Randolph, the writer of the flashy and trick-filled The Big Short. As a result, stylistically, Bombshell falls somewhere in between. The handheld camera and intrusive close-ups give the film a sense of realism. That the action is captured almost like a documentary with multiple cameras on the go at once gives a claustrophobic and newslike feel. Then, occasionally, the film widens out and has actors talk directly to the camera or blends it’s ‘fictional’ narrative with actual documentary as the audio of real testimonies made by six women who accused Ailes of assault are heard with accompanying photos. Yet, the grounded nature of Roach and the showy antics of Randolph never quite gel, leaving it to feel like you’re flicking between two different movies – both of which could be quite interesting.

Bombshell may be a mess politically, disjointed stylistically, and have plenty of other significant issues but, somehow… it’s still entertaining. Maybe it’s a testament to the casting, with Theron especially doing the heavy lifting to pull it all together in spite of everything stacked against her. Perhaps the film is messy, but not quite messy enough. Bombshell might be like the pile of clothes you stuff under your bed or into the bottom of your wardrobe. The room looks clean enough, but the mess is still there, lurking, and you’re going to have to deal with it someday. 

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Bombshell is in U.K cinemas from 17th January 2020

Also Read: JoJo Rabbit (Review)

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Reviews

Retro Review: Eyes Wide Shut

April 17, 2019

Stanley Kubrick is one of the most revered film directors of all time. His films were championed as art which displayed the power of cinema. And many are held as some of the greatest movies ever. However, his final film Eyes Wide Shut has often slipped through the cracks.

Many critics were left disappointed when the film came out. Which is understandable. When the film was released Kubrick hadn’t made a film in 12 years. And with his great track record, many were probably expecting a masterpiece. With such high expectations, it’s understandable why the film didn’t fare well upon initial viewing. But with the film celebrating it’s 20th Anniversary this year, today we will be looking back to see if Eyes Wide Shut deserves its reputation as Stanley Kubrick’s worst film.

The Story

Bill (Tom Cruise) and Alice Harford (Nicole Kidman) are a well-regarded New York City couple. Bill has a good job as a doctor, the couple has a child together and is very active in high society. But after a series of intimate flirtations with other people at a Christmas party, they begin to have doubts about how secure their relationship is.

After Alice admits to having sexual fantasies about another man, Bill embarks on an odyssey around New York to find out more about himself. His curiosity leads him to several encounters that will test his commitment to his relationship. Eventually causing him to cross paths with a secret society who don’t take kindly to strangers.

What did I like?

If you are a fan of cinema Eyes Wide Shut delivers something truly unique. It uses its basis as an erotic thriller to ask some interesting questions about relationships. What does marriage mean to people? Is it possible to truly know someone? And does true love really exist? And these interesting thematic points are accompanied and conveyed through great performances and a confident script.

Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman’s performances are some of both actor’s best work. They have fantastic chemistry, which makes the films questions about relationships more impactful because theirs feels so genuine. They were of course dating at the time. Tom Cruise being Hollywood’s go to charming leads makes Bill easy to like. But he’s equally effective when the film shifts and shows him in more vulnerable or compromising positions. And he makes each character shift work by wholly committing to the emotion required from the role. And Kidman shows her strong dramatic capabilities and how committed she can be. She’s willing to commit to nudity and brings dramatic weight to her simplest actions. The scene where she and Cruise discuss their relationship is incredibly powerful, because of her performance. And all the supporting performers although given limited screen time, manage to make their characters feel like fully rounded people.

The script is also one of Kubrick’s best. It creates a seamless world that blends both the real and surreal perfectly. The dialogue between the characters all feels natural. It doesn’t seem pretentious or forced. It feels like these are characters voicing their opinions, and aren’t just actors reciting dialogue. Even the exposition, although there can sometimes be a lot, fits what the characters are going through. And it allows room for interpretation, with so much being left unexplained for the audience to interpret. While also being a complete narrative. With all of the major characters arcs completed in a natural way.

And the cinematography is some of the best of Kubrick’s career. Cinematographer Larry Smith makes every scene look like a painting come to life. The colourful lighting and smooth tracking shots make the film a joy to look at. And he creates a palpable atmosphere through adding a haziness to many of the shots. Making the film feel like a dream. Which makes the more surreal frightening parts of the film all the more plausible.

But there are still elements that may bother viewers especially those unfamiliar with Kubrick’s work.

What did I not like?

Firstly, the slow pace that favours character interaction, mood and visual metaphors over an efficient, traditional narrative can make the film a chore for people simply wanting to watch a story unfold rather than trying to decode what the movie means. Many will also be dissatisfied with the directions the story takes. The payoffs to many of the story’s arcs happen off-screen and are explained away in dialogue or favour intimate images over big spectacle, which can make some audience members feel cheated.

The direction doesn’t help. Kubrick’s films often lack intimacy. Favouring wider shots over close-ups and cold/washed out colours, which keeps the audience at a distance and inspires a depressing feeling. Coupled with the actors slower, more methodical delivery, this can make the film seem stagey and un-real. Which may keep you from becoming engaged with the drama.

Alternately there are times when some might feel that the movie is patronizing them. Some scenes literally vomit dialogue about what has occurred. Which is necessary for the characters but not for the audience. The pool scene being the worst offender.

Finally, it is easy to see some take against the portrayal of women in the film. Many may feel the film paints all women as being obsessed with sex and are portrayed in an enticing way for the male viewer. Which is not an inaccurate conclusion. Though it is worth pointing out that the film does hold Bill’s character accountable for his chauvinist views. And many of the films male characters are controlling, manipulative and driven by self-interest (though they have significantly less nude scenes).

Verdict  

Twenty years after it’s release, it’s easy to see why some audiences took against Eyes Wide Shut. Because it favours atmosphere over tight narrative structure. Goes in directions that many may not expect. While also offering up a possibly unflattering view of women and to those unfamiliar with Kubrick’s style it can seem alienating and hard to read.

However to those looking for something different or are familiar with the directors work the film delivers a one of a kind experience. It asks big philosophical questions in a way that allows the audience to think and come up with their own conclusions while still functioning as complete narrative. The characters are memorable and interesting. All of the actors commit themselves in ways that are very admirable and play to and against their strengths. And the film is a feast for the eyes with a vibrant colour scheme that attracts and repels at the same time.

It’s a hard nut to crack. But once you have, it is a rewarding experience and a worthy swan song for one of cinemas greatest voices.

Verdict: 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)