• 11 Jan - 17 Jan, 2020
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

The loathsome Roger Ailes, notorious as a former Nixon apparatchik and veteran CEO of the stridently mediocre Fox News channel, became even less fragrant in 2016 when the open secret of his physical harassment became an open non-secret. The channel’s former anchor Gretchen Carlson successfully filed a lawsuit against him, revealing that he made carnal advances to her and other women at Fox; their careers would be advanced (or cancelled) at his seedy whim. Carlson’s courageous lawsuit was supported by six other women and the 76-year-old Ailes’s own boss, Rupert Murdoch, fired his underling, who died a year later.

This gruesome soap opera of misogyny and reactionary politics has already been turned into a Showtime TV drama, The Loudest Voice, with Naomi Watts as Carlson and Russell Crowe as Ailes – and now it is a movie directed by Jay Roach and written by Charles Randolph, with Nicole Kidman as Carlson and John Lithgow horribly plausible and latexed up as her bloated old criminal employer. Charlize Theron is Fox News presenter Megyn Kelly, who infuriated the Fox News fanbase by challenging Trump on his anti-women attitudes before the election, and Margot Robbie plays Katya Pospisil, a fictional composite of all the younger women who were abused. She is the “Christian influencer” on Instagram who figures she can get ahead at Fox, and submits, almost in a dream, to the humiliation required.

It is a strange film in some ways, speckled with powerful, insightful moments but also with some strained acting, pulled punches and fudged attitudes, unable to decide if its heroines are compromised through having been loyal Fox staffers. Ailes is the obvious villain but Murdoch (still alive, with lawyers and power in the media world) is almost presented as the good guy, finally intervening to create a happy ending and played in cameo by Malcolm McDowell.

Bombshell succeeds in showing how the predatory and sinister abuse plays out in the corporate environment – in bullying. The film shows that sexual harassment and bullying are not separate issues but part of the continuum of coercion.