- Film & TV
- 24 Jan 20
Drama about Roger Ailes scandal only occasionally hits the mark...
In Bombshell, Margot Robbie plays Kayla, a composite of several women who endured sexual harassment by Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes. With ambitions to be a Fox News anchor, Kayla – who describes herself as “an influencer in the Jesus space” – gets a coveted meeting with Ailes (John Lithgow). Alternately charming and unctuous, paternal and predatory, Ailes asks Kayla to stand up and show him her legs. “It’s a visual medium,” he proffers. Uncomfortable, she does so – but then he demands she raise her skirt higher. And higher. And higher. The scene is distressing and horrific, and Robbie’s face is remarkable, showing the internal struggle of a woman terrified, intimidated, violated – but also weighing up her ambitions and Ailes’ power. She’s in a lose-lose situation, and she knows it.
Bombshell has a few of these incredible moments, where women realise how powerless they are. Except, these women never speak. In fact, Bombshell is all about women facing misogyny, harassment and injustice – and never speaking to each other. As Kayla is drowning under the weight of Ailes’ harassment, Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) is fighting ageism and objectification from Ailes and her co-workers, and presenter Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) – who has her own history with Ailes – is surviving public attacks from Trump. Yet, the women do not interact.
This decision from comedy director Jay Roach and The Big Short co-writer Charles Randolph highlights the loneliness of a world that prevents women from communicating with and protecting each other – through competition and fear; through internalised misogyny and victim-blaming; and through the sexist dismissal of women’s complaints as frivolous gossip, manipulative attention-seeking, or hysterical over-reactions. While the cinematography and costuming capture the absurd, Barbie-blonde sheen demanded at Fox, this horrifying, ugly and all too real story could have done with less of a filter.
Directed by Jay Roach. Written by Charles Randolph. Starring Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow, Kate McKinnon, Malcolm McDowell, Allison Janney. 108 mins. In cinemas now.
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