Bombshell



Director: Jay Roach
Writer: Charles Randolph
Stars: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, and Margot Robbie


Based on the controversial true story, a group of women working at Fox take on the head of the network, Roger Ailes, and the nasty, abusive atmosphere he presided over. It just predated the 'Me Too' movement and feels particularly relevant in this era of Harvey Weinstein and the stories now coming out of these institutionalised toxic environments.

For those uninitiated in the story; Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) headed Fox News, a dominant conservative television network in the US. The film focuses on newscasters Megyn Kelly (an unrecognisable Charlize Theron), Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) and composite character Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie). Carlson complained about the sexist comments from her breakfast TV co-star and was subsequently removed and given a show in the mid-afternoon - an obvious demotion.  Kelly is one of the most popular anchors on the network and is to co-moderate the 2016 Republican debate. Pospisil is a wide-eyed ambitious conservative millennial. She knows that her beauty opens doors, but what happens when those doors are closed?

The title has a double meaning. Bombshell - as in, the story is about the dropping of a massive bombshell - and also, the rather old-fashioned way of describing physically-attractive women. Sexual abuse is at the heart of the story and this film successfully shows how differently that can look. From sexist jokes, to asking women to  do a twirl (Ailes excuse being that 'TV's a visual medium'), to the intensely charged and uncomfortable scene with Pospisil, Lithgow successfully plays Ailes as someone who is adept in grooming women, under the guise of 'loyalty'. It's a power game.

Although the film can make a few missteps here and there and often revert to 'easy wins' in the script, the performances are the strongest ingredient in this film. Theron is astounding as Kelly, her voice modulated and her gestures and expressions taken from watching hours of footage of Kelly. Other than the headlines, I didn't know about the details of what was happening at Fox and while I by no means believe everything in this film (as addressed in Meghan Kelly's response to watching the film for the first time), the performances by the three leads are so compelling, that it didn't take anything away from me being completely invested in this story.

The stand-out scene for me is the one used in the teaser trailer of the three in the elevator together, all headed to Ailes floor. Each emotion, the tension and flicker of the eye over at their colleagues is so masterfully done, it took my breath away. Kidman has one line ('hot in here') but nothing more is verbalised - it's all in the physical performance and it is phenomenal.

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