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Saturday, February 1, 2020


(Charlize Theron)

This is the first major Hollywood movie to emerge from the #MeToo movement and it’s clearly Charlize Theron’s vehicle. (Review by Patrick Compton. 8/10)

Roger Ailes, the chairman and CEO of Fox News was a loathsome sexual predator, rather like Harvey Weinstein. He was also a talented newsman who built this toxic right-wing TV news station – owned by Rupert Murdoch – into a hugely successful purveyor of “news”. Bombshell, this entertaining and hard-hitting movie portrays his downfall through the eyes of three women journalists who work with him.

Theron is the Queen Bee of this production. She not only found the money to make it, but also produced and starred in it. She, scriptwriter Charles Randolph (The Big Short) and director Jay Roach have together made a partly comic, partly acerbic dissection of American corporate power with the emphasis on male misogyny.

The opening of the film breaks the fourth wall as the famous Fox anchor, Megyn Kelly (Theron) walks us through the Fox offices, studios and newsroom. She is a power in her own right, but there’s no doubting who the big cheese is: Roger Ailes is the man with the power to make or break you. But if you’re an attractive woman, a specially branded type you can see on Fox and CNN today, the sotto voce warning is: “You’ve got to give head to get ahead.”

Bombshell, a title that echoes the old-fashioned word for an attractive woman as well as the scandal that was to erupt, looks at the lives of two Fox anchors, Kelly and Gretchen Carlsen (Nicole Kidman), as well as a composite character, Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie), who are all sexually harassed by Ailes.

Theron’s character, who ultimately swings the momentum in favour of the women who are naturally fearful of accusing such a powerful man, owns the lion-sized chunk of the film, and she is wonderful in the part, not least in her critical questioning of (then candidate) Donald Trump’s attitude towards women when she moderates the 2016 Republican presidential candidates’ debate. And although it’s Kidman’s character who breaks the logjam by filing a suit for sexual harassment against Ailes, it’s Robbie in the composite role who features in the film’s two most dramatic moments. In the first she is “interviewed” by Ailes and suffers sexual humiliation that makes your toes curl; in the second, she breaks down while speaking on her cellphone about the experience to a close friend.

The movie’s strengths are Randolph’s witty, often scathing dialogue, the performances of the three women as well as the overall ensemble impact of the talented cast. Finally, take time out to appreciate the superb makeup – including facial prosthetics – and hairstyling that brings these “anchor Barbies” to life.

The weakness is that the film, splendidly entertaining as it is, tends to skim over the surface of its own material, rarely stopping to probe deeper. These anchors are not the most obvious of victims. They are highly paid, highly conservative and polished to a gleaming shine. They are not, perhaps, the kind of desperate people that the #MeToo movement has in mind. A recent book about Ailes eloquently captures his impact: “The loudest voice in the room: How the brilliant, bombastic Roger Ailes built Fox News – and divided a country.” Watching Bombshell, it’s a little frustrating that the movie doesn’t really address the implications of that title.

Bombshell is showing at Ballito Junction, Gateway Mall, Midlands Mall, The Pavilion, Shelly Beach, Suncoast, Watercrest Mall. – Patrick Compton