When your movie is focused on the 2016 downfall of Fox News CEO and chairman Roger Ailes in the wake of a damning sexual harassment scandal, you’re going to get criticism from both ends of the political criticism because your target is, in fact, Fox. Such is the case with director Jay Roach’s “Bombshell,” written by Charles Randolph, which chronicles Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) and Gretchen Carlson’s (Nicole Kidman) takedown of their boss after a long, repeating history of bad behavior in the workplace.
In a recent interview with UPROXX, Roach, who previously tackled the political landscape with the 2012 HBO film “Game Change,” said he’s surprised by the vehement reactions coming at him on either side. For the director, the focus at the movie’s core, which is on the harassment these women had to endure in the workplace and even beyond, is “a nonpartisan issue.”
“Some of the criticism is about why should we care about these women because they’re Fox women. And that is definitely tough to read that because that’s part of the point of the film — to say this is a nonpartisan issue. It seems almost like victim-blaming to say, ‘Oh, these women were sort of smiling their way through this process.’ Well, I don’t think so,” Roach said.
The “Bombshell” director also urged for an equally nonpartisan approach to the viewing experience whenever possible. “For people on the left — I’m saying this for myself, too — to remind ourselves that this happened in a very unlikely place, but it’s not an unusual predicament women find themselves in,” he said. “And if you are willing to get past any preconceptions you have about the people involved you might find things you have in common with them, the concerns you have in common with them. And men too, that we might gain some perspective, some empathy for a situation that you might not have thought you would have.”
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Roach also questions whether his movie didn’t take it far enough in its excoriation of Fox News, and the patriarchal structures in general that enabled the kind of abuse seen in the movie — most squeamishly in a sequence where Margot Robbie’s composite character is asked by Ailes, played by a fat-suited John Lithgow, to lift up her skirt to prove her allegiance to him. It’s an uncomfortable sit.
“I just wanted the film to be about this common problem that we all face. For some people, at least, we didn’t take them far enough past that preconception that they’re still thinking, ‘Oh, this story doesn’t matter as much because it’s these women in this place.’ And it’s also, this was a year before the real tipping point for the MeToo movement, when the Harvey Weinstein news broke and to just face what all these women were up against,” Roach said.
“Bombshell” is now in theaters, and after recently earning Screen Actors Guild Award nominations for Theron, Kidman, and Robbie, is expected to be a major player in the 2020 Oscars.