Bombshell has two of the ingredients necessary for a great documentary.
For starters: a compelling story. The title turns out to be a pun when you learn that early Hollywood star Hedy Lamarr invented radio-hopping technology for torpedoes that turned out to be critical to the design of modern wifi and mobile signals. It makes for a great yarn; you’ll happily recount the most memorable parts to your friends.
The next integral ingredient is a considered perspective. Director Alexandra Dean provides an analytical viewpoint, delving into the complexities of Lamarr’s invention (addressing some well-founded scepticism) while still acknowledging the momentous nature of the star’s achievements. Taken as a whole, the film is a portrait of how great women are dragged down by male mediocrity – less a crushing patriarchy than a conga-line of ill-equipped losers. The recurring realisation that Lamarr was shackled by the same sexuality that show her to stardom feels particularly relevant nowadays.
It’s a shame that, formally, the film couldn’t be more inventive. It’s full of talking heads and stock footage; these are the jigsaw pieces that fit together to create most documentaries, of course, but the film feels constrained and, perhaps, creativity. Still, well worth your time!