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Bombshell depicts Fox News' toxic misogynistic culture 

Jay Roach (Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, Meet the Parents) directs semi-fictionalized drama based on the true story of several women—including Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) and Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron)—at Fox News who set out to expose CEO Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) for sexual harassment. (108 min.)

click to enlarge START SPREADING THE NEWS Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) and her assistant, Lily (Liv Hewson), react to the revelation that Gretchen Carlson has accused Fox News CEO Roger Ailes of sexual harassment. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF LIONSGATE
  • Photos Courtesy Of Lionsgate
  • START SPREADING THE NEWS Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) and her assistant, Lily (Liv Hewson), react to the revelation that Gretchen Carlson has accused Fox News CEO Roger Ailes of sexual harassment.

Glen File this film under the infuriating category. The sexual harassment and abuse of power that Roger Ailes (not to mention Bill O'Reilly) got away with for years at Fox News is horrible, and this dramatization of those events—with Margot Robbie playing fictionalized character Kayla Pospisil as a sort of stand-in for the various other unnamed women abused by Ailes—should raise your ire. I'm not a Fox News fan in the least, but no one deserves what happened to Carlson, Kelly, and Ailes' other victims. While Carlson and Kelly get their time on screen, this is Theron's movie. She's simply amazing as Megyn Kelly, and with a few subtle prostheses elements added around her eyes, she bears an uncanny resemblance to her character, made more uncanny by her adoption of Kelly's clipped speaking style. Theron truly disappears into the role. Lithgow is also amazing as super creep Ailes. Lithgow plays him like he's the victim of some conspiracy by a bunch of ungrateful women who only got their jobs because of him. A big part of the story is the fear the women have of crossing Ailes. They know he can break their careers. You'd think this would be a story of female solidarity as they join forces to stand against male dominance, but it's more about the fear and competition among these high-achieving TV personalities. Carlson shows the most bravery, but it doesn't come until after she's fired from Fox. Kelly slowly realizes—too slowly the story contends—that her failure to confront Ailes will mean more abused women. Pospisil's relationship with fictionalized Jess Carr (Kate McKinnon), a closeted gay and liberal Fox News employee, is where a lot of the story's complicated politics play out. It's a propulsive, entertaining film, and my only real criticism is it plays it too safe and lets Fox News and its misogynistic culture off the hook too easily.

Anna Theron is spot on in this role. She truly takes on Kelly's mannerisms, speech, and look down to every detail. Accused of being a feminist by the higher ups at Fox, Kelly contends that she's "not a feminist" but is a lawyer and insists on truth and transparency. That gets put to the test when accusations against Ailes come out and Kelly is very reluctant to get involved. Even more envelope-pushing is Carlson, who's been punished for her strong will by being relegated to a midday air time and a far smaller audience. Ailes is a wholly unlikeable character, a disgusting and dirty man who uses his power for evil far more than good. He's the "second floor"—everything is decided by him and must be done to his liking. Women wear skirts, desks are clear so they can show off their legs, and loyalty to him is above all else. His private office is also his playground, making young, green female workers hike up their skirts and administer sexual favors in a desperate plea to keep their jobs or move up the chain. Infuriating is right. The fact that most of the women at Fox News were unwilling to believe or support Carlson when she sued Ailes is maddening. The conservative news giant's culture is icky at best, and pre-#MeToo movement it was downright gross. Eventually, though, Ailes' luck ran out and one accusation quickly snowballed into mounting evidence that even Rupert Murdoch (Malcolm McDowell) couldn't ignore. The cast did a fantastic job portraying this seedy story; Theron in particular is a shining, albeit frustrating, star.

click to enlarge PIG John Lithgow plays Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, whose years of sexual harassment and abuse were finally exposed, leading to his ouster and a multi-million-dollar lawsuit. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF LIONSGATE
  • Photos Courtesy Of Lionsgate
  • PIG John Lithgow plays Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, whose years of sexual harassment and abuse were finally exposed, leading to his ouster and a multi-million-dollar lawsuit.

Glen Even though she's the principal character in this film, Kelly doesn't come off as some kind of hero, mainly because she's not very sympathetic. In real life, Kelly has had a hard time continuing her once successful career. After Fox, she rode her notoriety onto her own show on MSNBC, but it was canceled. After MSNBC, she was dormant for about a year, but last I heard she's trying to use her Instagram platform as her own media outlet, recording interviews and posting them. I think it's fair to argue that her career has been badly damaged, which has continued her victimization—though you could also argue that she keeps damaging her own reputation with comments about blackface and other racist statements. Is she a serious journalist? That's not really something this film explores. Carlson, on the other hand, is depicted as being a true journalist interested in taking on real stories. After Fox, she's yet to return to TV, but she has continued to advocate for women's issues. She's the real hero. Bombshell is definitely a worthwhile film, but I'm not sure it's quite as explosive as it could have been. I still recommend it highly, mainly for the terrific performances.

Anna It did show the inner workings of a scandal, which was interesting, but as you said, not exactly explosive. Kelly went through her own unwanted spotlight after Trump disliked her debate questions and made the infamous comment about "blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her... wherever" and followed up with some pretty nasty tweets with Kelly as the subject. It put her family into a public eye she wasn't ready for and seemed to leave her shell-shocked and afraid to cause waves by backing Carlson's claims. Instead she chose the "no comment" approach until many more women had already come forward. Frustrating behavior to say the least but also relatable. No one wants to be in the middle of a scandal, no matter what side you're involved with. The acting here is definitely the key reason to see Bombshell, though it certainly can be enjoyed from home without losing much. I will see anything with Theron in it, and she doesn't disappoint here. The rest of the cast holds their own as well, and watching this true-life scandal go down and take Ailes with it has a certain amount of satisfaction. I'd catch a matinee if you want to see it now, or hold off and rent it from your preferred place when it shows up in a few months. Δ

Split Screen is written by Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey and his wife, Anna. Comment at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

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