Jay Roach (director)
18 May 2020 (released)
18 May 2020
An interesting and somewhat disturbing note at the end of Bombshell is that Fox News paid out more in compensation to two sacked high-profile employees than on harassment claims. It’s interesting though not entirely surprising as the film pries open workplace attitudes that ignored unacceptable behaviour for a long period of time.
Bombshell revolves around the legal action taken by Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) who takes out a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the late CEO Roger Ailes (John Lithgow). Pulled in by the slipstream are Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) and new employee Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie) who both pursue actions against the channel. Pospisil is a fictional character presumably a representation of those who chose to remain anonymous.
Kelly is dispatched from her prized timeslot to a lesser one for annoying Donald Trump, the fragility of her position and career is palpable. As is that of new employee Pospisil who develops a friendship with a lesbian colleague, that has to be concealed.
The film is a relatively straightforward account of the scandals that rocked the network and the wider industry, giving them a kick in the backside, forcing them to confront some very uncomfortable facts. A culture that tolerated bullying and compliance, festering the fear that a career was a breath away from destruction.
More insidious was the accommodation of these people by those whom you’d expect to be sympathetic or supportive. The prevailing attitude appeared to be that it happened ages ago or worse that it was just a rite of passage. It’s ugly stuff that is crystallised when Ailes asks to see Pospisil in his office and through power and manipulation forces her to lift her skirt a bit at a time, in a scene that is deeply distressing.
Kidman, Theron and Robbie are excellent if a little clunkily used with the film setting off three distinct storylines and so has a slightly jolty feel at times. That said Jay Roach’s direction is abuzz with colour as the camera glides through the life and vigour of the newsroom, interlacing the various characters at work and presenters as they prepare for their shows.
However all corridors lead to Ailes and John Lithgow is convincingly grotesque as a man who thought he had no boundaries was feared and loathed. The dichotomy being that however monstrous his actions were he was still held in high esteem and commanded great loyalty from many colleagues.
The script by Charles Randolph by and large keeps the Murdochs in the background for most of the film with sons Lachlan and James dipping in and out as the situation with Ailes develops. Rupert Murdoch (Malcolm McDowell) doesn’t show up until towards the end when he gives Ailes his cards. It’s a short scene and there’s not much called on for McDowell to do, the point is that the viewer is left in no doubt what the priorities were.
Bombshell is available now on Digital Download and on Blu-ray and DVD from 18 May.