Talking Movies: Bombshell, Dolittle and Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Spling reviews Bombshell, Dolittle and Can You Ever Forgive Me? as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.


Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…

This week, we’re talking about a newsroom drama, a fantasy adventure and a crime drama.

Starting off with a film now on circuit…


A group of women take on Fox News head Roger Ailes.

Director: Jay Roach

Stars: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie

– it’s wonderful to see a female-led drama with such powerhouse A-listers leading the charge
– Theron is a seasoned actress, who is once again in with a chance this awards season alongside ever-versatile co-star Robbie
– it seems that Theron only seems to get acknowledged by the Academy Awards when she doesn’t look like herself or is fighting sexual harassment as with her previous nominations for Monster and North Country
– this time she’s doing both, using make up to offset her famous face and deepening her voice to embody her character as Megyn Kelly in a political game among presenters at a toxic Fox News
– she’s typically strong, somewhat diluted by her facial prosthetics, slight vocal contrasts and the superficial handling of the screenplay
– the trio are immersed in the toxic environment and made to look like Barbies, yet the screenwriting seems to operate on a similar level, toying with documentary elements to add edge
– it doesn’t stop these Hollywood heavyweights from delivering strong performances, but does diminish the intellectual engagement and power of the message, leaning on the far-reaching political power of the true story
– coasting on the strength of its collective of performances, Bombshell isn’t quite as explosive or devastating as you’d hope, taking a safe route through this quagmire of hypocrisy and misogyny
– it’s entertaining to get a behind-the-scenes dramatisation of PR muscle, big business and legal proceedings, which has many parallels with present day Hollywood, yet it just seems to be scratching at the surface of a much bigger story

A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer

Moving on to another film now showing…


A physician discovers that he can talk to animals.

Director: Stephen Gaghan

Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Antonio Banderas and Michael Sheen

– Robert Downey Jr. has had a good run as the mascot of a number of franchises including Iron Man, The Avengers and Sherlock Holmes
– while his unpredictable, charming and bold star quality has its merits, it’s clearly not a copy-and-paste formula
– this is clear in Dolittle, his latest venture, a remake of the 1967 and 1998 films of the same name
– you could describe it as Sherlock if he was possessed by Noah and haunted by the Ark
– while the idea holds weight especially as a family film, the execution is troubled and the screenplay is half-baked
– for starters, Downey Jr doesn’t sound right and seems like a dubbed version of himself, which is unsettling and breaks the illusion of reality
– while CGI has come a long way, being surrounded by a supporting cast of talking animals is going to be a stretch no matter how good the visual effects
– unfortunately, it’s on the point of real and unreal with the same underwhelming impression of Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle
– to make matters worse, the animal jokes range from pure cheese to bad taste, making what should have been fun, witty and quaint a bit of a chore
– the outlandish tale has the talent and budget, but just comes up short in every department, struggling to overcome flimsy visuals, subpar writing and bizarre choices
– kids may be appeased by the zoo of visual artistry, lazy writing and over-the-top characters, but this lightweight escapist fare has no backbone

A third-rate 3 on the splingometer!

And finally a film on rental…


When Lee Israel falls out of step with current tastes, she turns her art form to deception.

Director: Marielle Heller

Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant and Dolly Wells

– based on the true story of Lee Israel, this is a curious New York crime drama about a down-on-her-luck celebrity biographer
– while the character would have probably suited a younger Kathy Bates, she’s truly owned and loved by McCarthy, who is able to make her a tragic figure without alienating the audience
– delivering a heartfelt performance without pandering to her usual comedy lead flair, she takes on a more serious, dramatic role with relative ease
– playing off her delightfully grand, showy and equally adept co-star Richard E. Grant makes her job so much easier as the two enjoy the warmth of familiarity
– while essentially an intimate and small New York caper, it’s co-written by Nicole Holofcener whose bittersweet comedy dramas bristle with life
– Can You Ever Forgive Me? continues in this vein, giving an insider’s perspective to the struggles of a writer trying to find her voice
– embracing her everyday setbacks, trying to pawn things to cover rent and cat food, its a humbling and thoughtful character portrait drama
– the criminal enterprise adds a twist of humour, while McCarthy’s cantankerous yet tender attitude provides plenty of spark between her, her agent and her allies
– the Grant-McCarthy dynamic is terrific, spurred by an intelligent script of great nuance and whimsy set against classic New York locations
– it’s a small yet surprisingly effective crime drama memoir

A solid 7 on the splingometer

So just to wrap up…

BOMBSHELL… captivating performances elevate this uneven yet important docudrama, even if it can’t fully deploy its payload… A satisfactory 6!

DOLITTLE… a dubbed lead, lacklustre visual effects and a half-baked screenplay diminish this uninspired and tiresome fantasy adventure… A third-rate 3!

CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?… sharp performances, authentic production design and subtle storytelling underwrite this intimate crime drama memoir… A solid 7!

For more movie reviews, interviews and previous Talking Movies podcasts visit splingmovies.com.

And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!