Having earned well-deserved Oscar nominations for Charlize Theron, Margot Robbie and its transformational makeup and hairstyling, Bombshell tells the true story of the toxic culture at Fox News.
As Sarah Voon writes, it’s an expertly delivered “complex exposé of the explicit sexual harassment endured by many women in that icky petri dish of Republican fervour, political propaganda, and patriarchal white tycoonery—Fox News—at the hands of its CEO, Roger Ailes (John Lithgow)”.
I had only a vague recollection of the events that inspired Bombshell. I hadn’t watched the (excellent) trailer, and clues to who was starring in it came from the poster, notably Margot Robbie and Nicole Kidman. It was a full ten minutes in when I realised glossy Fox News star anchor, Megyn Kelly, was played by Charlize Theron—so impeccable are the prosthetics and makeup, so unusually low her voice, so relentlessly alpha her performance. I sat up and got engrossed.
Director Jay Roach (Austin Powers) and writer Charles Randolph (The Big Short), expertly deliver a complex exposé of the explicit sexual harassment endured by many women in that icky petri dish of Republican fervour, political propaganda, and patriarchal white tycoonery—Fox News—at the hands of its CEO, Roger Ailes (John Lithgow). Clever editing and seamless collaboration between art, costume and makeup create a riveting behind-enemy-lines watch. I struggled to entirely empathise with these women, to whom “feminism” is a dirty word, as they enthusiastically embraced, and actively worked, the ethos and traditions their toxic work environment was founded upon, until for some, it becomes untenable.
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It really is Theron’s show, she practically inhabits Megyn, and despite conflicted feelings about Ms Kelly, it can’t be denied that she dealt Trump a sick burn before anyone else. Gretchen Carlson, slowly being squeezed out, is captured meticulously by Kidman, her struggle for a foothold simultaneously fuelling an underestimated anger. Robbie’s Kayla Pospisil, is Gretchen’s ingénue and a fictional composite of female Fox employees who eventually testified against Ailes. As such, her story arc perhaps tries to fit too much in. She plays guileless with steely ambition well, and consequent shame with heartbreaking precision, providing contrast to Leader of the Pack Megyn Kelly’s unshakably confident, intelligent and hyper-articulate powerhouse.
I’ve no doubt that I was thoroughly entertained, despite discomfort at the alarmingly high blonde to brunette (or people of colour) ratio. The bravery of these women, regardless of where values align, has certainly helped shine a light on the systemic abuse of power at Fox, and been instrumental in cementing foundations for the #Metoo movement.