Charlize Theron, Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman, John Lithgow
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…a powerful exploration of gender-politics that is bookended by dominant performances from Robbie and Theron.
The revelation that Fox News had covered-up a culture of predatory behaviour resulted in the right-wing broadcast juggernaut becoming the 6 o’clock news headline.
With the explosive drama Bombshell, director Jay Roach (a long way from his Austin Powers roots) turns his attention to championing the women responsible for bringing down Roger Ailes (John Lithgow); the former CEO of Fox News who was fired for sexual misconduct.
The 2016 Presidential Campaign would prove career-defining for Fox News journalist Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) – perhaps just not in the way the lawyer-turned-political-pundit would have liked for it to have been.
Contentious dealings with then soon-to-be-Republican-nominee-turned-President Donald Trump, would prove one of two battles endured by Kelly in her well-documented struggle with gender inequality.
Kelly’s relationship with Ailes, a man of great influence who commanded as much admiration as disgust, signifies the mistreatment experienced by women in the workforce. Ailes abuses his position of power to force female employees into compromising situations. The extent of this abuse was both manipulative and physical.
Legal proceedings against Ailes, led by the recently fired Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson (a soft-spoken but tough as nails Nicole Kidman), unearths the silent suffering of women employed at Fox News. Their mistreatment begging the question: how can a high-profile operation like Fox News, an organisation who at the time wore the moniker of being ‘fair and balanced’ like a second skin, could tolerate and protect toxic individuals like Ailes?
The crisscrossing of storylines, transposing from the hardships faced by Kelly with Trump and the women of Fox with Ailes, is handled with a considered touch by Roach. That said, Roach does not abstain from making political digs at the Republican party, with Bombshell hanging so sharply left that it begins to u-turn. The Trumbo director impeccably folds the various narrative strands into one another, with the ultimate effect that Bombshell’s slice of Fox News history is a microcosm for the world at large.
However comical and light the film attempts to be, as though to signify the relative ease whereby misconduct is shrugged off, Bombshell proves unflinching when portraying the traumatic experiences of harassment in the workplace. The horrifying effect coming into full bloom when Kayla, an ambitious recruit with dreams of becoming a news anchor (glowingly portrayed by Margot Robbie), encounters Ailes in arguably the year’s most confronting scene.
All cast members featured in Bombshell deliver outstanding performances, with Theron’s transformation into Kelly eerily perfect. The actor’s likeable portrayal of Kelly, allowing the audience to empathise with the troubling character, has not been without controversy. Roach undoubtedly refrains from depicting Kelly in a negative light; opting to humanise instead of demonise. By doing so, Roach keeps the focus on Kelly’s struggle, which in turn respectfully acknowledges the difficult process of speaking-up.
Roach stands amongst a new wave of reformed-comedy-directors-turned-satirists (hello Adam McKay; the script here is by The Big Short’s Charles Randolph) looking to use their engaging chops to inspire change. With Bombshell, Roach succeeds in delivering a powerful exploration of gender-politics that is bookended by dominant performances from Robbie and Theron.