A look at Bombshell (MA 15+)
Harassment of women with the accompanying lewd comments in the work-place has come under much more in-depth scrutiny in recent years. Far more than it did in the 1980s and 90s (where it was ever-present) and clearly through the influence and clout of the #MeToo movement.
That one of the most publicised unveilings of a predator such as the Fox News network chief Roger Ailes should come about in an extremely conservative, right-wing organisation is even more remarkable.
And here in the excellent movie helmed by Jay Roach evening news anchor Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) and in the initial stages afternoon host Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) go public with their accounts of humiliation in Ailes’ fortress-like inner office. It’s Carlson who gets the ball rolling.
Reminded by Ailes (John Lithgow, in a really believable effort) that viewers of the Fox chain don’t want to be lectured by “menopausal women” Carlson deliberately goes on air one afternoon without a trace of make-up. It’s 2015 in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election and the movie is quite bright and bouncy early on.
But when Roach uses some real-life footage of Donald Trump’s actual on-air interviews with Megyn Kelly we see some sleazy comments expressed in Kelly’s presence. The Fox newsroom atmosphere becomes more intense when producer-cum-wannabe-anchor Kayla (Margot Robbie) is summoned to Ailes’ top floor office. Kayla is asked to “do some twirls” in front of Roger’s desk.
Then when he demands that she roll her dress up so that we can all see her white panties Kayla becomes freaked out. This is one of the most pivotal scenes in Roach’s film and emphasises the mammoth double standards at play in the Fox studios.
Roach has used the fictional character Kayla to let us envision the extent of Ailes’ degradation of his women staff members. The implication is that Kayla and girls of her age and standing within the Fox network won’t go anywhere without Roger’s say-so and stamp of approval. Enter the lawyers. First of all they’re Gretchen Carlson’s team and they’re aided by the secret recordings Gretchen has made of Ailes’ sleazy comments and instructions within his office.
And there’s much more than just comments. At one stage it’s remarked – and noted down by the legal team – that Roger doesn’t bother even with unbuckling his belt. Gradually other women come forward from the newsroom and the studios to assorted lawyers with their stories. Megyn – a lawyer herself in a previous life – eventually meets with her own legal team and learns that she’s Witness W.
“What. There’s 22 before me,” she utters incredulously as she realises that W is the 23rd letter in the alphabet.
It all proves overwhelming for Ailes’ credibility and eventually Fox founder and overall boss Rupert Murdoch (an amazingly life-like Malcolm McDowell, proshetics and all) heads into the Fox headquarters conference room and hands Roger his marching orders. Rupert is quite charming about handing out the don’t-come-Monday offer, sweetened by a massive payout.
As my wife pointed out, Ailes and a crooked crony’s payouts totalled more than the total sum handed to the women complainants.
In real life Ailes didn’t last much longer on the planet. He died in May 2017, aged 77.