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Film Of The Week Explosive charge

Bombshell tellingly interrogates the sexist culture which led to the downfall of Fox News head Roger Ailes, says MARIA DUARTE

Bombshell (15)
Directed by Jay Roach

NOMINATED for three Oscars, this powerful drama is based on the real-life sexual harassment scandal and the women who brought down Roger Ailes, the infamous head and creator of Fox News, laying the foundations for the Me Too and Time's Up movements that were to come.

It's told through the eyes of former Fox News presenters Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) and Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman), along with the fictional Kayla (Margot Robbie), an evangelical millennial eager to follow in their footsteps.

Under Jay Roach's skilful direction, Charles Randolph's complex and disturbing screenplay, full of conflicted characters, conveys the sexism, harassment and toxic atmosphere women were subjected to at Fox — Carlson reveals how Ailes would tell her: “if you want to get ahead you need to give a little head” — along with their guts and bravery in denouncing them.

Women who refused his sexual advances were demoted and/or fired but, in the summer of 2016, Carlson filed a sexual-harassment lawsuit against Ailes, which resulted in more than 20 women coming forward, including Kelly.

Although the film does not show the sexual abuse in any graphic detail a scene in which Kayla is asked by Ailes, given a transformative performance by John Lithgow, to give him a “twirl” portrays it to alarming effect.

It makes for very difficult viewing, along with a scene in which the three, having been summoned by Ailes, are all heading up in a lift to see him. Not a word is uttered but, as they look at each other, it's evident they know exactly what is coming. Chilling.

The film is driven by powerhouse performances from the three female leads, with Theron looking and sounding exactly like Kelly. She can tell her side of the story but Carlson cannot, having signed a gagging clause after agreeing to a reported $20 million settlement.

Yet while Fox paid $50m to the victims of sexual harassment in the year Ailes and top presenter Bill O'Reilly were fired, they paid both men $65m in severance pay. Where is the justice in that?

 

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