Bombshell – A Very Timely Film

Every so often, the stars align and the timing for release of a film overlaps with headlines on the front pages of the news. In 1979 The China Syndrome was released just as Three Mile Island’s core shutdown was occurring. Many other examples are sprinkled throughout the history of film.

Today, add to that list Bombshell. This bold and ambitious film tells the story of sexual harassment claims that brought down Fox News architect Roger Ailes. The network that did more than any other to boost Trump into the White House is now looking dirtier than ever as their candidate has just been impeached.

The oily, dirty mess is presented in such compelling narrative that you often find yourself forgetting to exhale. One particular scene is so wrenching the stillness and apprehension on and off the screen is palpable enough to cut with a knife.

The cast is uniformly excellent. John Lithgow is at his peak as the fiendishly misogynistic Ailes. Ailes is unquestionably a successful news producer, but his dark side becomes so pervasive that even his loyal secretary seems to look the other way. It is around Ailes that the film revolves.

In his orbit are a series of women who are initially attracted to the success he promises and then repulsed by the quid pro quo he demands. Indeed, the role and influence of Trump is never far from the action on screen. It will be fascinating to observe the backpedaling or ‘fake news about fake news’ claims that are sure to emanate from Trump’s supporters. The timing of today’s headline news that “Christianity Today” (an evangelical magazine founded by Billy Graham) calling Trump “profoundly immoral” is not only amazing, but a stunning rebuke.

But Bombshell would be nothing without the amazing actors who are the focus of Ailes’ predatory behavior. Charlize Theron is magnificent as Megyn Kelly. Her character walks us through the byzantine office politics under the Ailes regime. Theron made a point not to meet with Kelly in preparing for the role; the former’s success inhabiting the latter’s persona is stunning. Nicole Kidman’s portrayal of Gretchen Carlson is similarly brilliant. Not to be outdone is Margot Robbie, a blend of characters. All three blondes are confronted with the dark underbelly of Fox and Ailes, and we cringe often as we are similarly confronted with the ugliness.

Oscar winner Charles Randolph (The Big Short) wrote the script and the film was directed with a confident hand by Jay Roach. The film sure feels fair and balanced, and like other films that seemed ripped from the headlines, time will tell.

 

 


Brad Auerbach has been covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.

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