BOMB­SHELL

Empire (Australasia) - - ON SCREEN - TERRI WHITE

DI­REC­TOR Jay Roach

CAST Char­l­ize Theron, Ni­cole Kid­man, Mar­got Rob­bie, John Lith­gow, Kate Mckin­non

PLOT As Don­ald Trump runs for elec­tion, Fox News has never been more key to po­lit­i­cal dis­course. But back­stage a cul­ture of back­stab­bing and ha­rass­ment, led by founder

Roger Ailes (Lith­gow), is set to be ex­ploded by an­chors Megyn Kelly (Theron) and Gretchen Carl­son (Kid­man) and am­bi­tious pro­ducer Kayla Pospisil (Rob­bie).

THE FIRST THING you no­tice as she strides, back erect, down the cor­ri­dor, talk­ing di­rectly to the cam­era, is the voice. The sec­ond: the face. Your brain knows that in­side those pre­cise pros­thet­ics, be­hind that deep tenor, is Char­l­ize Theron as con­tro­ver­sial Fox anchor Megyn Kelly. But the trans­for­ma­tion (by Dark­est Hour make-up artist Kazu Hiro) is so au­then­tic, so on point, it’s un­nerv­ing. The walk and talk though: an en­ter­tain­ing piece of fourth-wall-smash­ing ex­po­si­tion that es­tab­lishes pre­cisely how the beast that both was and is Fox News op­er­ates. A nec­es­sary nar­ra­tive foun­da­tion for un­der­stand­ing quite how the net­work was able to be such fer­tile ground for ha­rass­ment.

It’s fair to say that Theron, as per­haps we ex­pect of Theron, doesn’t do things by halves. She trained with a vo­cal coach to ‘do Megyn’, even­tu­ally los­ing her voice for three weeks. Her com­mit­ment to the film, to the role, is clear, and so it’s no huge sur­prise that this is Theron’s show. She’s ut­terly com­pelling as the heart of a trip­tych of fe­male power rounded out by Ni­cole Kid­man as on-the-outs host Gretchen Carl­son and Mar­got Rob­bie as wannabe-anchor Kayla.

Per­haps un­der­stand­ably, then, some have al­ready flagged con­cerns about a ‘sym­pa­thetic’ de­pic­tion of Megyn Kelly (who fa­mously de­clared that Santa Claus had to be white live on air), but this isn’t a tale of re­demp­tion and it’s an un­com­fort­able truth that not all vic­tims of ha­rass­ment are ‘good’. The women in this film are not gifted ab­so­lu­tion, if they even seek it. Their in­volve­ment in bring­ing down one of the most pow­er­ful net­work bosses in his­tory is thor­oughly ex­am­ined, flaws and warts and all. And it doesn’t re­coil from ask­ing how com­plicit women can be in the cul­ture, with Pospisil say­ing to Carl­son, “Did you think what your si­lence would mean for us? For all of us?”

The other topic of al­ready-heated dis­cus­sion has been the fact that both the writer and di­rec­tor of Bomb­shell — which is be­ing hailed as the first #Metoo film — are male (Charles Ran­dolph and Jay Roach). But there is no vis­i­ble im­pact on the in­tegrity or de­tail of the sto­ry­telling. They pa­tiently, painstak­ingly paint a pic­ture of the cul­ture, with a light, be­liev­able touch — the pre­ferred wide shots, short body-skim­ming dresses, sticky heat-wrecked hair, trans­par­ent desks en­sur­ing the vis­i­bil­ity of smooth legs.

From an early con­fronta­tion on the stu­dio floor be­tween Ailes (Lith­gow) and Carl­son af­ter she ap­pears on tele­vi­sion with­out make-up, through to a skin-crawl­ing in­ci­dent with Pospisil be­hind the locked door of his pri­vate of­fice, the por­trayal of Ailes and his abuse is un­flinch­ing. And it’s here that Rob­bie emerges as the film’s big­gest sur­prise, her ini­tial one-note wide smiles and agree­able na­ture dis­in­te­grat­ing dra­mat­i­cally dur­ing a call with col­league Jess (Kate Mckin­non). It’s a scene that will re­main stuck to your skin af­ter­wards; the price that women were ex­pected to pay for so long laid out with dev­as­tat­ing clar­ity.

VERDICT

One of the most com­pelling sto­ries of the #Metoo move­ment is told un­flinch­ingly, em­pa­thet­i­cally and au­then­ti­cally, with Char­l­ize Theron com­pletely nail­ing the knotty char­ac­ter of Megyn Kelly.

Clock­wise from left: Fox anchor Megyn Kelly (Char­l­ize Theron) with Roger Ailes (John Lith­gow); Whistle­blower hero Gretchen Carl­son (Ni­cole Kid­man); Pro­ducer Kayla Pospisil (Mar­got Rob­bie) with col­league Jess (Kate Mckin­non).

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