Bombshell (Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow, Allison Janney, Kate McKinnon) – Get your Oscar ballots out and write down Charlize Theron’s name for Best Actress for her depiction of Megyn Kelly in this scathing look at sexual harassment at Fox News.
The toxic culture created by Roger Ailes and practiced by Ailes, Bill O’Reilly and others has been explored in magazines, newspapers, and in the devastating TV mini-series The Loudest Voice. In short, Ailes (Lithgow) was a pig. He was also a brilliant propagandist and a formidable kingmaker.
An all-star cast led by Theron, Nicole Kidman, and Margot Robbie provide an insider’s view into Fox News, just one piece of the Rupert Murdoch-owned media empire. As told by Oscar-winning screenwriter Charles Randolph (The Big Short), Fox News is a house of open secrets, run by men and a passel of enabling women.
Its female anchors either comply with Ailes’ not-so-subtle sexual advances or they get fired or relegated to low-rated timeslots. Gretchen Carlson (Kidman) was the first to come forward. Having been taken off the morning Fox & Friends and given a lousy afternoon time, she makes too many waves, gets fired, and files a lawsuit against Ailes. An internal investigation follows led by Murdoch’s sons, Lachlan and James. Meanwhile, Kelly, the only prime-time anchor at Fox, struggles with whether to support Carlson. She owes her career to Ailes, who sexually harassed her early in her career at Fox but backed off. Kelly, a lawyer, uses her investigative skills are her staff contacts to do some research of her own. By the time she gets interviewed by the investigators, other women have told their stories. But Kelly holds the key to the story going viral.
Robbie plays a composite character, Kayla Pospisil, whose career ambition gets the better of her. She moves from Carlson’s show to O’Reilly’s, then parlays an elevator conversation with Ailes’ assistant, Faye, into a private meeting with the boss. It turns ugly. But Kayla goes back again and again.
Bombshell is a skewering of Fox News. John Lithgow is positively creepy as Ailes. Padded with a fat suit and prosthetics, he makes a better Ailes than Russell Crowe in The Loudest Voice. Plus, there are so many cameos that it looks like actors lined up to be part of this expose: Allison Janney (as Ailes’ lawyer), Kate McKinnon (as a closeted lesbian), Malcolm McDowell (as Murdoch), Connie Britton (as Beth Ailes), Holland Taylor (as Faye), and Richard Kind (as Rudy Giuliani). The actors depicting O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Chris Wallace, Brett Baier, Jeanine Pirro, Geraldo Rivera, and Greta Van Susteren all do a creditable job.
But the star of this film is Theron (who is also one of the producers), who looks, talks and moves so much like Megyn Kelly that I doubt you could tell them apart in a photo or in a live-action video clip. It is by far THE best physical portrayal of a real person I have ever seen. You will swear that Kelly is playing herself. But her performance is much more than that. It is agonizingly real, strong and tortured.
If you hate Fox News, you will love this movie. If you are a Fox News lover, you might enjoy it, too. Either way, Bombshell is a realistic depiction of the toxic work environment that shapes the way millions of people get the news.