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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Bombshell is director Jay Roach's outstanding fact-based drama about sexual misconduct allegations at Fox News. The film is an eye-opening account of how women are sexually harassed and pressured in the workplace, as well as of the bravery and effort it takes to undo the unfair practices of a giant corporation. It blends the experiences of real-life figures like Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) and Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) with those of Kayla (Margot Robbie), a fictional stand-in for women who are less well known. There's lots of talk about sex but no on-screen action, though sex is implied and two women are seen putting their clothes back on after a drunken hook-up. A powerful figure is briefly shown smoking, and there's lots of swearing/crass language ("f--k," "s--t," and more). For a film that takes place in a highly political environment at a highly political time, there's no political preaching. The movie can serve as a useful tool for parents to share with older teens as a warning about how manipulation occurs -- as well as a primer in what constitutes sexist behavior, how it's difficult to counter, and how women truly feel about it.
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What's the story?
BOMBSHELL looks at the gender politics of Fox News during the 2016 presidential campaign. Anchor Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) gets wrapped up in a controversy with presidential candidate Donald Trump and finds herself the target of both internal and external criticism. Host Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) sues the network's powerful CEO, Roger Ailes (John Lithgow), for sexual harassment. Meanwhile, new hire Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie) is determined to get an on-air role at the network, unaware that women face a different standard for promotion. When Fox executives authorize an investigation from an outside firm, the three women realize that their experiences aren't unusual.
Is it any good?
Decades are often required to assess history, but filmmaker Jay Roach shortens the gap with this alarmingly accurate film about how women began to topple the gender power dynamic in 2016. Bombshell serves to remind viewers that the revolution started in the most inauspicious of locations: the conservative hallways of Fox News. Be prepared for a shift in perspective -- it really doesn't matter if you do or don't like Gretchen Carlson or Megyn Kelly's politics; you'll connect with the difficult position they're in and respect them for the decisions they ultimately made. Carlson may have been a bit naive when she filed her lawsuit, but the film helps you understand that her bold decision to fight back against the sexist treatment she received was both heroic and sacrificial (some cynics may think that getting a hefty payout is worth a "muzzle," but anyone in the entertainment or critical journalism space will tell you that staying quiet feels like an exercise in having your hairs pulled out, one by one).
Theron is such a dead ringer for Kelly -- voice, walk, mannerisms -- that it's almost unnerving. The similarity helps you get lost in the authenticity of the story, especially when it's meticulously intercut with real footage and real stories of what actually went down. Some people may think it's too soon to make a movie about these events, and perhaps that's right, since even the film acknowledges that we still don't know how it will all play out. But the creation of a living document to show our sons and daughters real examples of sexism, degradation, and harassment in the workplace -- from bold assault to microaggressions -- is invaluable.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about sexual harassment and misconduct. What should you do if you're treated inappropriately? What do you think would have happened if Kayla had reported her private meeting with Roger Ailes? Was Megyn Kelly obligated to publicly share what happened to her?
Beyond sexual harassment, the film also demonstrates sexist and demeaning behavior, including microaggressions that create a hostile work environment for women. Women have been trying to figure out how to combat this culturally ingrained behavior for centuries. What do you think can be done now?
One of the film's themes is that women are stronger together. Why do you think women often feel competition with one another? How can that be overcome?
- In theaters: December 13, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: March 10, 2020
- Cast: Charlize Theron, Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman
- Director: Jay Roach
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: History
- Character strengths: Courage
- Run time: 108 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sexual material and language throughout
- Last updated: August 21, 2021
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