Director: Jay Roach.
Cast: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow, Kate McKinnon, Connie Britton, Rob Delaney, Mark Duplass, Liv Hewson, Allison Janney, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Malcolm McDowell, Ben Lawson, Josh Lawson.
|Yes, but who dealt it?|
Last year, that important battle fought by a number of brave women was dramatised twice. First as the Showtime mini-series The Loudest Voice, with Russell Crowe as Ailes. And hot on its heels was Bombshell - the first major movie of the #MeToo movement. It too tells of Ailes crimes, but unlike The Loudest Voice, it's biggest focus is the women of the Fox newsroom.
Through the eyes of real-life experienced anchorwomen Gretchen Carlson (Kidman) and Megyn Kelly (Theron), as well as ambitious young producer Kayla Pospisil (a composite character played by Robbie), Bombshell examines the culture of Ailes' Fox. When Carlson launches a sexual harassment lawsuit, it impacts an already besieged Kelly, while Pospisil is also facing her own troubles. In the end, all roads lead to Ailes.
As Carlson notes towards the film's end, she doesn't want you to like her - she wants you to believe her. So let's leave aside the politics of Carlson (and indeed Kelly), much like the film itself does (although Kelly's infamous "Jesus was a white guy" comment does get an airing).
What's important here is the film's truth-to-power storyline, and the way it examines the inadvertent complexities of it all. Characters weigh financial concerns and job security against holding a sexual predator to account. The price of silence, the ripple effect on friends and family, and the notion of betrayal in the sisterhood are all explored in an intriguing, if-not-perfect fashion.
It's an important story that's largely told well. Some early dialogue to camera, as well as its switching narrators is messy but bearable. But once Bombshell dispenses with its tics and gets down to brass tacks, it's continually compelling.
A lot of that comes down its killer cast. Robbie gives an unflashy turn, but it's one of the best performances of her career, while Theron and Kidman are their usual brilliant selves, with Theron and Robbie more-than-worthy Oscar nominees. Credit also to Lithgow for making Ailes both slimy and human at the same time. McKinnon is also excellent in a small role, and McDowell is great in a small cameo as Rupert Murdoch.
It bears repeating that the make-up work by Kazu Hiro (who previously won an Oscar for his work on Darkest Hour), Anne Morgan and Vivian Baker is remarkable, in particular the transformation of Theron into Kelly. Less recognised has been the way Theron nails Kelly's voice. Together it's a mesmerising job by all involved.
Bombshell is flawed but with its triumvirate of talented women out front, it's a strangely riveting and fascinating telling of a story that deserves to be told.