3 out of 5 stars
This will be the decade that will be defined by the actions of Harvey Weinstein. Not that the film producer is to blame for all of the ills of Hollywood and the entertainment community, but his comeuppance was the open door for sexual harassment issues to be addressed. The problem goes beyond the entertainment industry, but the most sensationalistic aspects of these stories come within the dark recesses of the offices of studio executives. After Weinstein, the next big target for a media firestorm was the all-powerful and titan of conservatism, Fox News CEO Roger Ailes (John Lithgow).
From the pen of Charles Randolph, the Academy-Award winning writer of The Big Short, comes the dramatised interpretation of the events at the media powerhouse. Mixing in fictitious characters with actual real-life victims, Randolph attempts to depict the toxic workplace developed by Ailes. The focus of the film is on the legal action taken by Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) after being demoted and eventually fired from the news service. Going out on her own to expose the harassment that was allowed at the network, she needed to wait to see if other women would come forward to support her claims.
Even though there were multiple claims made against Ailes, initially the organisation came to the side of the top executive. Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) was the face of Fox News at the time and she had made her mark within the organisation. The newsreader and former lawyer managed to stay above the vitriol towards her former colleague. Then during the Republican debate, Megyn asked direct questions of Donald Trump which put her at odds with Fox’s viewership and Ailes. As she waded through the negative publicity and attempted to maintain her career, her investigative reporter skills went into action and she started to look into the allegations against the CEO.
While Carlson and Kelly were determining how their discoveries and personal experiences would lead them to how they should confront the corporation's most powerful man, Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie) was merely trying to make a name for herself. The young associate producer attempted to navigate the ranks of the organisation to position herself to present her skills before the top brass. After catching the eye of Ailes, she becomes another potential victim and is pulled into the cesspool of harassment.
A project that was got the go-ahead after Ailes death in 2017, Bombshell is a timely and well-told story for this era. Randolf interweaves the historical with the fictitious to make an entertaining and grievous tale of an unfortunate reality of many corporate atmospheres. Handled in the same manner of The Big Short and Vice, where the cast breaks the fourth wall to expose the critical aspects of the narrative. This screenplay takes no prisoners of the kingmakers behind the elections of 2016.
The players on both sides of this story play to their strengths and provide a compelling story and show the far-reaching influence the media has on our lives. The sensationalistic nature of this lawsuit makes for good drama, but the challenge begins if anyone begins to scratch below the surface. An ensemble cast of this magnitude means that few characters are developed to any degree, except for the fictitious role of Kayla Pospisil played by Margot Robbie. The dramatic tension exists, but there is little substance to the overall experience.
The tone and nature of this film will not have the wide-spread appeal it seeks. Primarily because it is written for those who desire to see the demise of Fox News and the Trump presidency. There is a warning to corporate executives to keep their pants zipped and mouths shut, but it is muffled by the hatred for the conservatives represented on-screen. An important theme to address in society, but one that gets lost in amongst the political hostility of the screenplay.
Reel Dialogue: Sexual harassment is never acceptable (Mature content)
The legal definition of sexual harassment: Any unwanted or unwelcome sexual behaviour, which makes a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated.* In the workplace, sexual harassment typically involves unwelcome advances offered as a condition of employment or that create a hostile work environment.
There is a multitude of articles and books written on the subject. Still, regardless of how it is defined, sexual harassment is a violation of the biblical principles of modesty, purity, and respect for others.
Those who follow the biblical expression of sex know that God intended human sexuality to be expressed in monogamous, heterosexual marriages. The biblical mandate is for our sexual attention to be only for our spouse. Godly marriages aren’t built on sex or coercion; they’re built on respect, sacrificial love, and dedication to Christ. This impacts the discussion of sexual harassment, because if this mandate is followed, harassment would not be an issue.
These illegal and non-biblical actions of provocation are never excusable or justified.
For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself." Galatians 5:14
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Russ Matthews works for City Bible Forum as the Engaging Manager. He enjoys developing large public forums throughout the city to engage workers with the bigger questions of life. He oversees The Edge and Reel Dialogue.