Bombshell – Film Review
Director: Jay Roach
Writer: Charles Randolph
Stars: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie
Charles Randolph hones in on the world of Fox News in 2016 when the presidential election was taking place. It seems like a long time ago. He probes the working environment of the organisation in relation to three female broadcasters in particular. Two of them Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) and Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) are based on fact. The third Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie) is an amalgam of various aspiring, good looking, young female broadcasters.
Sitting on top of the pile in Fox is the chief executive Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) who has an undoubted talent to understand what makes middle America watch and keep watching Fox. Outside but keeping an eagle on everything that happens in Fox is Rupert Murdoch and his sons; they are the effective owners. They have created an aggressive environment both as to other television companies but also within the office itself. This is no place for sissies.
Ailes is a potentate and the office kowtows to his whims. His whims include using his untrammelled power to get what he wants from young female employees who fall under his gaze. They have to convince him that they are loyal to him if they wish to be promoted and get the plum jobs. Showing loyalty means they have to do things for Ailes which have nothing to do with their abilities as broadcasters and journalists. There is an omerta around Ailes activities until Carlson speaks up. She does not do it out of a fit of anger; she takes advice and plots her course. But when she reveals her story it becomes the news story and Kelly also becomes part of the story. The plot then moves on to consider how the Murdoch family manage the damage that Carlson’s story has caused as well as that of Kelly’s. There is no place for an individual with moral qualms.
Kidman and Theron are at the top of their game and Robbie is particularly impressive in the scene where she has to submit to Ailes’ unacceptable behaviour. What is interesting is the number of female employees who collaborate with Ailes or actively defend his abusive behaviour. The driving forces which made Fox News tick do not play by the Queensberry rules or it seems any rules other than the accumulation of dollars.
Fox News is a hugely influential opinion former. Bombshell gives an insight as to how it operated under Ailes. Fox remains a highly influential former of public opinion. Bombshell is worth seeing even if it leaves the viewer feeling deep discomfort.