There is a scene at the beginning of “Bombshell,” where the Fox correspondent Rudi Bakhtiar is being propositioned by one of her bosses. We see him hinting and suggesting and insinuating and then her thoughts, in voiceover, as she coaches herself through the impossibility of her predicament: Just look confused. Make it your fault. That scene could have been written as outrage or slapstick. Bakhtiar could have come back with a brilliant riposte. But when you skip to the speech, you skip the complexity — and one of the things I love about Charles Randolph’s screenwriting is that he never skips the complexity. “The Big Short,” his last effort, was a movie about collateralized credit default swaps. And not in some metaphorical sense. (There was actually a scene where viewers were gently schooled on the precise nature of these financial instruments, to the point where they could have called their broker after the film and ordered some for themselves.) In a Randolph movie, details and nuance slowly overwhelm our preconceptions. Are the trio of newscasters in “Bombshell” — played by Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie — victims? Sure. But when you look at them as closely and clearly as Randolph does, they’re not helpless or defeated or trapped. They’re real, contradictory and funny women who have agency. “Bombshell” proposes to tell an origin story of the #MeToo movement, paint a portrait of Fox News, examine the nature of female professional ambition, and portray one of the most notorious sexual predators of our age — in other words, to walk across the longest and most treacherous DMZ in contemporary America — and yet in the end we somehow emerge restored.
Malcolm Gladwell is the author of six New York Times bestsellers, most recently “Talking to Strangers.” He is also the host of the podcast Revisionist History.