Recommendation: An insider look at Fox News scandal circa 2016 that brought down News Chief Roger Ailes is stunning and cohesively told; not as snarky or salacious as the trailer sold it. 8/10.
IMDB Synopsis: A group of women take on Fox News head Roger Ailes and the toxic atmosphere he presided over at the network.
In 2016, in what seemed like a lifetime ago, the world was rocked by incredible allegations leveled by Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson at then Fox News boss and titan Roger Ailes. Carlson alleged that Ailes sexually harassed her over the years, and allowed a systemic pattern of abuse to continue under his reign. What followed was a stunning fall from grace for Ailes, as Fox superstar anchor Megyn Kelly—amongst other women—echoed Carlson’s allegations. What Bombshell—and director Jay Roach—does is tell the story from inside Fox, primarily from the view of three women who provide an entertaining, powerful, and disheartening look at the scandal.
Bombshell focuses on three avenues to tell the story of Roger Ailes’ downfall and the scandal that plagued Fox news in the mid 2010s. The first is Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman), the co-host of Fox & Friends and midwestern conservative, who levels the sexual harassment allegations at Roger Ailes (and by extension, the Fox News apparatus). The second is Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie), a made up amalgamation of young conservative women at Fox who have ambition and are preyed upon by Ailes and co. Finally, the most focus is on Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron), the megastar Fox anchor. Theron acts as the audience narrator and guide through the world of Fox News, frequently breaking the fourth wall and explaining who’s who and what’s what, for expedience’s sake. The act could have gotten tired, but director Roach uses it sparingly enough.
The movie skillfully blends the three women’s storylines, interacting when the greatest impact can be made, but mostly telling three independent stories that paint the entire picture. Gretchen Carlson was the first woman to speak out against Ailes’ behavior, and we see the fallout—the isolation and negative press—that followed as she took on a titan. Megyn Kelly, who wielded an immense amount of influence and how she fought internally to balance the need to stay professional (and ambitious) and to speak out against a system that had wronged her in the past, too. And Ms. Pospisil, as a catchall character for the multitudes of women that experienced sexual harassment and/or sexual assault at the hands of Ailes (in Bombshell) and countless others throughout the entertainment landscape.
The real world story is well known, and even more salacious than a film could possibly depict. But what Bombshell does is ground the story in these three women (and some side characters like Kate McKinnon and Rob Delaney’s) to strike a personal chord. It imbues the story with charismatic, relatable characters (both real and fake) to hit home that this broad, sweeping scandal affected many; from millionaire execs to powerful celebrity anchors to low level PAs to their loved ones. And that any progress, no matter how big or small, has a cost.
However, Bombshell isn’t solely a retelling of the Roger Ailes scandal (although it does that well) but a warning that this behavior still pervades our society and that hidden costs and tolls it takes on the people around us. Because unfortunately, the battle that Carlson and the other women won by bringing down Ailes, shining a light on Fox (and other orgs), and really starting the MeToo movement, is that the war is still far from over. Bombshell is a very good film, sadly the situation presented in it, is far from over.
MVP: Charlize Theron plays a note perfect Megyn Kelly, so much so it’s scary. While the film moves around a lot and focuses on the various women, Charlize is the focus.
Highlights: Margot Robbie’s character’s street-side breakdown is a powerful moment. Nicole-Kidman-as-Gretchen-Carlson is spectacular in her minimal scenes.
Director: Jay Roach
Studio: Lionsgate // Original release date: December 13, 2019 (limited)