“You’re sexy,” Fox News CEO, Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) says to “Fox and Friends” host, Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman). “But,” he says, “you’re too much work — and you’re a man-hater.” She’s being fired for news stories that speak to women’s issues. “Are you ready to go to war?” asks her lawyer. “Ready,” Gretchen says. That’s the setup for “Bombshell,” a docu-drama about the fall of sexual predator Roger Ailes at the Fox News channel.
Will other women at Fox join Gretchen’s suit against Roger Ailes? Will news-star Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron), despite her complicated feelings about Ailes, reveal her own dark secret? Will new-hire Kayla Pospisli (Margot Robbie) remain “loyal” to Ailes? For answers, see “Bombshell.”
Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie, nominated for Screen Actors Guild best-acting awards, are excellent as principal characters in “Bombshell.” Theron and Kidman are long-time Fox News stars, Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson. Robbie is newly-hired, aspiring but naïve, Kayla Pospisli, a fictional character who, befriended by closeted lesbian, Jess Carr (Kate McKinnon), gives us “back-stage” insights about being a woman at Fox. “This place is crazy,” Carr tells Kayla. Robbie’s long scene with Roger Ailes (smartly played by John Lithgow), is the one I will not forget. “I could move you to the front of the line,” Ailes says to Kayla, “but I need something in return — loyalty. I need you to think of some way to prove it to me.” “Loyalty” means “I own you.”
Others in the cast include Malcolm McDowell as Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch and Mark Duplass as Megyn Kelly’s husband, Doug Brunt. Connie Britton is Beth, Roger Ailes’ wife. Allison Janney is Fox News’ Susan Estrich.
“Bombshell,” directed by Jay Roach and written by Charles Randolph, is a convincing and documented story from the #MeToo movement. It is, as its tagline says, “Based on a true scandal.” Much of the film takes place in Fox newsrooms, where everyone talks and moves quickly. The camera does, too, with little soundtrack music to tell us how we should feel. Characters have voice-overs, so we hear their thoughts. Subtitles tell us who we’re seeing and when the scene is taking place. All of which is smart moviemaking, but requires viewers to pay attention. (Confession: I take notes at movies so I missed a lot of visual information.) However, I saw make-up designer Kazu Hiro’s amazing transformation of John Lithgow into Roger Ailes. It deserves an Oscar.
Rated R for pervasive sexual material and strong language, “Bombshell” runs 108 minutes. Adult film. Recommended.
Fox News boss Roger Ailes,
Brought down by three females;
Tells us how the mighty fell.