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Bombshell - Film Review

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by Nicholas Gordon (subscribe)
Freelance writer based in Sydney.
Published January 15th 2020
The #MeToo movement hits the big screen
One of the earliest chapters in the #MeToo movement was the spectacular fall of Roger Ailes. A hugely influential figure in the worlds of politics and broadcasting, Ailes built Fox News into the highest rating cable news channel in the USA. But that's not what he's remembered for. In 2016, he was forced to resign after multiple allegations of sexual assault were levelled against him. Ailes died in 2017, denying it all to the end, despite the many women with many similar stories about his abuse.

Directed by Jay Roach, Bombshell deals with the months leading up to the downfall of Roger Ailes. But unlike the recent miniseries The Loudest Voice, which covered the same subject matter, the story here is told from the perspective of the women victimised by Ailes. These include two of the network's on-air stars, Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) and Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman). A third victim, a producer played by Margot Robbie, is a fictional construct, informed apparently by a number of Ailes' victims.

The film opens with a narration by Megyn Kelly, the network's biggest female star, explaining the set-up at Fox News and the amazing power wielded by Ailes. Then, in somewhat of an aside to the main story, attention turns to a spat between Kelly and then Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump. Roger Ailes, realising Trump supporters and Fox News viewers are one and the same, orders Kelly to stand down.

Next comes Gretchen Carlson. If Kelly is the network's shining star, Carlson's fortunes are tracking in the opposite direction. After complaining about misogynistic treatment at the hands of her co-stars on the breakfast show, she is demoted to an afternoon time slot. Things gets worse in the afternoon and soon Carlson realises she's to be fired. But she won't go quietly and begins taking careful steps to expose her abuse at the hands of Ailes.

The third strand of the story comes via Kayla (Margot Robbie), a producer keen to eventually end up on-air. Kayla's attractive, conservative and an evangelical Christian - straight out of Fox News central casting. But Ailes is the ultimate gatekeeper of the airwaves and Kayla tears herself apart over whether to give in to Ailes.

One of the most notable aspects of the film is that the three women barely interact in any way, even though their stories are similar. Carlson pursues Ailes secretly, Kayla endures her mistreatment silently and Kelly operates independently too, consumed at first more by problems caused by her argument with Trump.

Another talking point is the character of Kayla. She's played vividly by Robbie, cornering much of the film's emotion and delivering its message. But the effect of the Kayla character seems to steal a little from the importance of Gretchen Carlson, who, through being smart and tenacious, appeared to be the instigator of Ailes' downfall.

But the misses are evened out by the heavyweight cast. Theron, Kidman and Robbie all offer outstanding performances. Bombshell won't be the last #MeToo movie ever made, but it will remain an important starting point.

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*Nicholas Gordon was invited as a guest
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Why? For a #MeToo drama
When: In cinemas January 16
Where: Cinemas nationally
Cost: Check with cinema
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