Current Issue #481

Film Review:
Bombshell

Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie in Bombshell
Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie in Bombshell

A formidable cast brings the downfall of former Fox News head Roger Ailes to the big screen in an often-disturbing study of the network’s top-down culture of sexual harassment and misogyny.

Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie headline director Jay Roach’s fact-based account of the toppling of TV titan Ailes, and although these events took place just before the beginnings of #MeToo, they nevertheless became a part of that unstoppable movement. It’s also very much a post-Trump movie, and he’s seen, heard and discussed throughout, so be warned.

Early lightly funny scenes where Fox News star Megyn Kelly (an uncannily good Theron) talks direct to camera remind us that Roach used to be known for broadly humourous epics (like the Austin Powers and Meet The Parents pics) and scripter Charles Randolph co-wrote The Big Short – but this isn’t a comedy. As Kelly is verbally attacked by Trump and his followers in the build-up to the 2016 election, amid a growing atmosphere of misogyny, we also see Gretchen Carlson (Kidman, inserted into real Fox And Friends footage) driven to start exposing the appalling culture of harassment at the cable corporation.

Furthermore, there’s Kayla, a complex, somewhat composited ingénue, beautifully portrayed by Margot Robbie with at first seemingly naïve optimism, then manipulative ambition, and finally disappointment, disgust and even trauma. Her big scene with the repulsive Roger (as underplayed by John Lithgow under heavy make-up and padding) is the most disturbing in the film, and demonstrates conclusively that some of the most damaging sexual harassment doesn’t need to require actual physical contact.

Full to bursting with fine players, many from prestige US TV (including Mark Duplass, Connie Britton, Liv Hewson, Jennifer Morrison, Tricia Helfer and so many others), Roach and Randolph’s film dares to name names, and goes after Trump as cautiously (and legally) as possible. And while proudly right-wing and redneck fans of Fox News definitely won’t care for the movie and what it so powerfully says, there’s no doubt that the battles that began here are continuing apace, and that further lofty names are surely going to fall.

Finally, how lucky we are that there are no TV channels in this country like the disgracefully conservative Fox News… right?

Reviewer Rating
8/10

Bombshell (M) is in cinemas now

DM Bradley

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