Over the next few weeks, studios will be going out of their way to provide critics tastes and morsels to munch on for films that avoided the fall festival circuit. While films like Queen & Slim and Richard Jewell are expected to play AFI Fest in a few weeks, other studios are going out of their way to let pundits see the Oscar contenders they’re holding onto without actually releasing them – basically providing them a test run, in case they turn out to be big huge embarrassing failures. We’ll be hearing more about 1917 and Little Women in the next few weeks, but for now, we’ll have to make do with the early buzz on Bombshell, a film that has instantly skyrocketed on many critics’ awards ballots.
Bombshell, for those who don’t remember, is the brainchild of Jay Roach (Austin Powers, Game Change, Trumbo) and Charles Randolph (The Big Short). It tells the story of the women who eventually brought down Roger Ailes’ circle of sexual harassment and abuse at the Fox networks. These whistleblowers include Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron), Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman), and composite character Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie). Early word on the film was skeptical – Roach is a pretty bland director, and the idea of his directing an on-the-nose film about sexual harassment directed at Fox News seemed pretty boring, to say the least. But word kept swirling around these performances, and the trailer debuted to relative success, so hope remained alive. And last night, we received confirmation: the film is a real player.
Audiences last night really dug the film, which managed to take a rather disheartening story and fill it with passion and vigor. The writing, directing, and filmmaking were all praised, but two individuals walked away with more acclaim than any other aspect of the production. The first is Theron, who turns in a spot-on performance as Megyn Kelly, who becomes the straw that breaks the camel’s back in terms of allegations against Ailes (played by a formidable, if not show-stealing, John Lithgow). The other, more impressive member of the ensemble is Margot Robbie, who blew audiences away as a wide-eyed innocent excited to report the news who goes through hell and back before emerging as the whistleblower that kicks off events. Robbie’s performance is receiving massive acclaim, and thanks to her small, solid performance in Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood, she should be a major contender for Best Supporting Actress, if not the flat-out frontrunner. The ensemble itself also received strong notices, if only due to the level of fun found in seeing beloved character actors show up as iconic Fox News figureheads, including Spencer Garrett as Sean Hannity, Allison Janney as Susan Estrich, P.J. Byrne as Neil Cavuto, Marc Evan Jackson as Chris Wallace (the best thing I’ve heard all day), Ahsley Greene as Abby Huntsman, and the two biggest takeaways, Richard Kind as Rudy Giuliani and Alanna Ubach as Jeanine Pirro. I’ve been critical and skeptical of this film for a while now, due to my distrust of Roach as a filmmaker (his only good film is International Man of Mystery). That being said, with the amount of acclaim coming off the West Coast tonight, it’s hard not to be a little excited for Bombshell’s release. While I’m not predicting the film for most categories just yet, it is leapfrogging on my shortlists across the board, and I am officially changing Robbie from Hollywood to Bombshell. Bombshell will be released on December 20th, and you can rewatch the trailer below.