CHARLIZE Theron (Monster, “Long Shot”) plays broadcaster Megyn Kelly with controlled brio, and this purposefully understated performance makes for powerful viewing.
Sure, it is odd that power is at the heart of Bombshell, a movie by Jay Roach about the women of Fox News Channel who dared to expose the sexual harassment at their workplace.
According to the movie, Roger Ailes (John Lithgow, Late Night) ran Fox like it was his to do as he wished, despite Rupert Murdoch (Malcolm McDowell) being the main owner.
Then, in 2016, a morning show co-host Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman, of television’s “Big Little Lies” fame) files the sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes.
She is taking on a news titan and tensions in the newsroom escalate as camps spring overnight. Was it true? Carlson needs backup, but victims weigh their careers in this gender equality fight.
This includes Kelly, and new girl Kayla (Margot Robbie) who wants to host a show really badly. So badly that she goes through an uncomfortable “show me your legs” scene with Ailes, marked by his heavy breathing. Oh yes, it seems Ailes loves his female hosts to show their legs, so the Fox News women in Bombshell don’t wear pants. Hemlines can never be too short, in Ailes’ idea of TV.
Bombshell leaves complicated feelings. Here are women who made it to where they are, due in part to their standout looks, and years of acquiescing to the norms laid down by their boss.
Self-preservation versus sister solidarity – a battle that has been played out in many offices the world over.
Add this dilemma to the rise of Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee who adores Fox.
We see Kelly calling out Trump about his treatment of women, and Twitter goes in overdrive with Trump pushing the fight against Kelly. Her consequent actions are discussed like they are moves of a chess game, rather than heartfelt.
Roach has included real footage, giving Bombshell the feel of a documentary. So what is lacking is the empathy for these women who were bullied and victimised.
Bombshell may lack heart, but the performances of its cast pulls you into this story. Theron’s voice has gone lower, and her appearance has some prosthetic help to bring Kelly to the screen. Kidman is believable as Carlson while Lithgow, also with some prosthetic aids, is wonderful as the lecherous news boss.
Ailes was eventually fired by Murdoch, and died a year later. Trump, the misogynist, is very much around.
The movie was based on the true accounts of these women who worked at Fox News. Kudos to them for telling it as it is.