Charlize Theron’s Megyn Kelly and dozens of other women deal with their own monster in Jay Roach’s Bombshell, a retelling of the Fox News harassment scandal that ended the reign of founder Roger Ailes. The ripped from the headlines tale features outstanding performances, incredible makeup work, and at least a handful of scenes that strike the right chord.
The film focuses primarily on three women in different stages of dealing with Ailes, as played by John Lithgow. Kelly is the star with her own highly successful primetime hour and loads of ambition. Nicole Kidman’s Gretchen Carlson is seeing her career on the downslide. She’s been moved from a top rated morning show to the desert of afternoon programming. Much of this has to do with her rebuffing the advances of Ailes. Carlson is already making moves to hold Ailes accountable while Kelly is conflicted. The fictional and composite character of Kayla (Margot Robbie) is just starting her journey at the network. In many ways, her role is the most fascinating. They say don’t meet your heroes and as a young conservative landing her dream gig, she (and her family) worship at the altar of the Fox logo. When Kayla maneuvers an introduction to Roger, her nightmare begins and a scene where the head honcho “auditions” her is horrific.
Charles Randolph’s screenplay peppers in many characters involved in the sordid saga. This allows for plenty of recognizable faces playing very or semi recognizable figures, including Allison Janney as Ailes attorney Susan Estrich, Malcolm McDowell as Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch, and Richard Kind as loyal defender Rudy Giuliani. There’s also Kate McKinnon as Kayla’s confidante in the bullpen. Yet it’s the quartet of leads that eat up most screen time. Theron’s transformation to Kelly is pretty remarkable. Much of that is due to her performance and capturing her mannerisms, but the makeup work of Kazu Hiro and team must be mentioned. The writing of Ailes is well handled as the script doesn’t shy away from his creepiness. It also doesn’t shy away from his connection to people and that he got to the top of the mountain with his abilities. After all, it’s those traits that sadly allowed many to stay silent for so long. Robbie’s character is the most conflicted. Her eventual face to face with Kelly regarding Roger’s behavior takes an unexpected turn worthy of conversation afterwards.
Perhaps the best scene occurs in 2006 and it involves Rudi Bakhtiar (Nazanin Boniadi). Her harassment comes not from Ailes, but as a direct result of the culture he created. When her incident occurs, we hear her inner monologue while she attempts to navigate her way out of it. We know that so many others heard that voice and Bombshell holds our interest in showing us where those voices led them.
*** (out of four)