“Blood coming out of her… wherever” was, regrettably, an instantly recognisable moment from Trump’s presidential campaign. Megyn Kelly, the Fox anchor he was describing, takes centre stage in Bombshell, a film examining the culture of silent acquiescence at that network during chairman Roger Ailes’ own campaign of sexual harassment.
How Bombshell intertwines Fox with Trump, the Murdochs and “fake news” makes for a pacy, dynamic and – as far it goes in heightened bio-cinema – pretty realistically contextualised film. It also adds great entertainment to a film biased enough to have some Fox viewers frothing at the mouth with its barbs.
Bombshell is a decent platform for its central three actresses. Charlize Theron embodies Kelly exceptionally well, in particular due to her vocal work and hair and makeup (Oscar-worthy). Kidman tackles toughness and a Minnesotan twang as “I don’t need to be liked” whistleblower Gretchen Carlson. Margot Robbie’s role – Kayla – is an amalgamation of characters and stories: it’s less compelling and quite thankless, but she performs it well.
John Lithgow is appropriately repulsive as Ailes, jowls quivering as he heaves his flabby mass around (again, shout-out to hair and makeup). There are attempts to demonstrate his complexity but it’s a slightly shallow depiction, in many ways letting him off lightly. Kate McKinnon has a lazily-written role as the closeted lesbian at Fox, but she’s refreshingly unshowy in it. There’s also a great supporting cast – some making only fleeting appearances – which reflects the scale of the problem, but also underserves the actors.
Bombshell is pretty fierce with its bias and, as such, will split audiences. It’s very of the moment too, with its tendency towards on-the-nose simplicity meaning it may not be one for the ages. It has the brashness of a bombshell, but it also shares that lack of subtlety.
CAST: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow, Kate McKinnon, Mark Duplass, Allison Janney, Rob Delaney, Malcolm McDowell, Connie Britton
DIRECTOR: Jay Roach
WRITER: Charles Randolph
SYNOPSIS: A group of women take on Fox News head Roger Ailes and the toxic atmosphere he presided over at the network.