Bombshell (15) | Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Jay Roach, US/Canada, 2019, Dur 109 mins

Cast:  Margot Robbie, Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, John Lithgow

Review by Carol Allen

The Fox News channel doesn’t exactly have a reputation for being a reliable and responsible news operation.  This film though gives us a different slant on the station, revealing the toxic culture of sexual harassment and discrimination that was prevalent under the rule of head of news Roger Ailes and the story of the women employees, who finally took up arms against him and won.  

The story concentrates on three women, opening with ostensibly the strongest, Megyn Kelly (Charleze Theron), who takes us on a whistle stop tour of the news channel environment and the way it uses sex to sell its particular brand of so called news.  At this stage the viewer might experience a certain amount of confusion, as our three main female characters, in the way demanded of female news presenters in this environment, are all done up like identical blonde Barbie dolls with false eyelashes halfway down their faces, making it difficult to tell one from t’other.

Eventually they emerge as individuals.  Nicole Kidman plays Gretchen Carlson, who after being humiliated by Ailes on camera and then sacked, successfully files a lawsuit against him for the sexual harassment she has experienced for years at his hands.  The third is Margot Robbie as Katya Pospisil, a fictional composite of the many younger women, who suffered Ailes’ slimy antics in silence.  In one of the most riveting scenes in the film, she is invited to Ailes office to “discuss her career” and the chilling realisation of just what that will involve slowly dawns on her.  As Ailes, John Lithgow is impressively repulsive, revelling in his power to abuse.

Interestingly rather than presenting a united front, the three women hardly ever meet in the film’s narrative.  Their stories are separate and yet united in a common purpose. They are also not the hard line, left leaning feminists you might expect. Kelly in particular is uncomfortably hard edged and veering to the political right.

Almost comically Rupert Murdoch, arriving late in the film in the person of Malcolm McDowell, is for once smelling of roses.  He’s the one who finally slays (well, dismisses) the Ailes dragon and sort of sets the damsels free – until the next dragon comes along of course.

Release Date:  Digital 11th May, DVD & Blu-Ray 18th May