Charlize Theron Nicole Kidman Margot Robbie John Lithgow Connie Britton
Kate McKinnon Allison Janney Mark Duplass Malcolm McDowell
For years now, Fox News, created by Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes has been a driving force in American politics. Ailes had been a Republican activist before affiliating with Fox News, facilitating the elections of Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush to the Presidency of the United States. As a side note, he was instrumental in getting Rudy Guiliani elected mayor of New York City, and of significant note, he was an adviser to the 2016 Trump campaign for President. Bombshell takes up the Ailes story toward the end of an impressive/infamous career when he appears to be the most powerful (and feared) executive at the Fox media network.
It’s easy to see how powerful men become so secure in their place, they imagine they’re invulnerable. Ailes is not the first (and perhaps not the last) to go down that road.
In the film, we are taken on a tour by Megyn Kelly (Theron), news anchor, of the Fox News administration and broadcasters, noting that Ailes and Murdoch are signified by the floors of their offices. “Floor 2 wants to see you.” “You’re asked to come to the 8thfloor.” The next person we meet is Gretchen Carlson (Kidman) of the popular show, “Fox and Friends.” We see her attempting to counter Fox’s “legs” image of women and help them achieve more respect for themselves and other women. But not only does she get in Ailes’ crosshairs, she takes on Donald Trump in the 2016 Republican debates by baiting him on his treatment of women. This is anathema to Ailes, a Trump supporter, and he fires Carlson.
After that, we witness Carlson’s decision to file a suit against Ailes, her attempts to get women in the Fox organization to come forward, all of this putting Megyn Kelly in a dilemma. Does she step up with her own story, or maintain her cushy place in broadcast television where she is adored?
Charles Randolph’s script and Jay Roach’s direction seem to be an even-handed approach to a combustible issue, because facts are on their side. Ailes’ telling quotes (recorded by Carlson) are sprinkled throughout, giving full evidence to the suit against him. For example: “To get ahead, you’ve got to give a little head.” “I’m discreet, though unforgiving (when you betray me).” “You have to prove your loyalty to me.” But Ailes’ most awesome and ironic exclamation is, “These women are trying to f--- me!”
It would have been more informative for Bombshell to have elucidated the backstory of Ailes in his activist roles before becoming a Fox News executive and his relationship with Murdoch and his sons, who clearly disapprove of him. Is that next for a whole new production?
Noteworthy for their performances in this film are Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly, Nicole Kidman as Gretchen Carlson, and John Lithgow as Roger Ailes. These are all powerful performances at their best. Giving staccato emphases are Connie Britton as Ailes’ loyal wife, Allison Janney as his lawyer, and Mark Duplass as Megyn’s supportive husband, Douglas.
If you want to see beautiful women in effective, provocative roles, this is a movie to see.