A group of women take on Fox News head Roger Ailes and the toxic atmosphere he presided over at the network.
Possibly the first film to really tackle the beginning of the me too movement, ‘Bombshell’ is based upon the events at Fox News that led to several woman setting out to expose CEO Roger Ailes for sexual harassment. It follows three women at Fox News, well known anchors Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) and Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman), alongside a relatively new staffer called Kayla, who is played by Margot Robbie. They all work under Roger Ailes (John Lithgow, looking grotesque under makeup to make him look more like the man he portrays), the man who created Fox News and who runs things for the Murdoch family from his upper floor office. All of these women have experienced harassment of some form from Ailes and until Carlson sues Ailes, they’ve remained silent. ‘Bombshell’ attempts to understand why, and it’s particularly good when showing the lengths Ailes and Fox, in many cases supported by other woman who worked at the network, went too to suppress these allegations and discredit Carlson and other accusers.
The film sets out to show how the culture at Fox News played a part in allowing this to happen, and how the environment meant that people were afraid to speak up, and many of the senior men felt emboldened to behave as they did. Fox News is an interesting case study, as are Carlson and Kelly in particular, given this is a right wing news organisation with shall we say, backwards views about women amongst other things. Ailes and Fox made no secret of the fact that they wanted women to present their shows for their looks, and ‘Bombshell’ is at its most interesting when it delves into Carlson and Kelly and how they reconcile this fact with the success they’ve had in their careers under Ailes and Fox News. It is directed by Jay Roach, who has created several politically charged TV movies for HBO, and he’s a good fit for the material. He gets under the skin of the political elements and the environment Fox News operate in, and to an extent cultivate, without losing sight of the main story of sexual harassment.
Given the relatively short runtime of a film it’s no surprise that ‘Bombshell’ does focus on the tabloid style aspects of the story, and it does tend to sensationalise more than it provides a deep critique, but there’s enough here between the underlying story and the strong performances from the female leads in particular to make this an entertaining and valuable piece of filmmaking. I do think it suffers in comparison with last year’s underseen miniseries ‘The Loudest Voice’, which featured Russell Crowe in a terrific performance as Ailes. Naturally as a miniseries, ‘The Loudest Voice’ has a wider scope, beginning with the origins of Fox News as a small challenger and taking us up to the present day when it’s one of the biggest news networks in the country, covering both the fallout from Ailes sexual harassment and depicting the toxic working environment he created that led to both success and ultimately ended his career. For anyone interested in understanding more about this story beyond the headlines, I highly recommend it. That being said, ‘Bombshell’ is worthwhile viewing and I enjoyed it a lot.
Directed By: Jay Roach
Starring: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow, Connie Britton, Rob Delaney, Mark Duplass, Liv Hewson, Allison Janney, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Malcolm McDowell, Kate McKinnon, Katie Aselton, Nazanin Boniadi, Andy Buckley, Michael Buie, P. J. Byrne, D’Arcy Carden, Bree Condon, Kevin Dorff, Alice Eve, Spencer Garrett, Ashley Greene, Tricia Helfer, Marc Evan Jackson, Brian d’Arcy James, Richard Kind, Amy Landecker, Ben Lawson, Josh Lawson, Jennifer Morrison, Mark Moses, Ahna O’Reilly, Tony Plana, Lisa Canning, Elisabeth Rohm, Stephen Root, John Rothman, Brooke Smith, Holland Taylor, Alanna Ubach, Robin Weigert and Madeline Zima