Blonde ambition meets male chauvinism in a stellar and timely exposé.



Stepford knives: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie, in order of billing 


The sexual harassment doled out by the Fox News chairman Roger Ailes was no laughing matter. It seems contrary, then, that Jay Roach is the man behind the camera of this incisive, topical exposé. Jay Roach made his name directing the broad comedy franchises Austin Powers and Meet the Parents, although he did dip his toes into political satire with his 2012 The Campaign. But there is nothing satirical about Bombshell, although it shares the rapid-fire, glossy veneer of such recent exposés as The Big Short and Vice. The title is apt, as it chronicles the shockwaves generated by the downfall of Ailes, as well as highlighting the type of woman he liked to decorate his workplace. And Roach has festooned his film with top-tier bombshells, namely Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie.


As Ailes, John Lithgow is as unrecognisable as he was as Churchill in The Crown, cloaked in prosthetic make-up and a fat suit. Yet the real Ailes, along with his employer Rupert Murdoch, appear as themselves in still photographs at the start of the film, mixing fact with fiction in a breezy anything-goes fashion. As the news anchor Megyn Kelly, Ms Theron appears equally incognito, blurring the line between faction and acting. She is, of course, irresistible, and never more so than when grilling Donald Trump on television.


What Roach does achieve is a dramatic momentum, punctuated by Charles Randolph’s shocking, spicy dialogue (“to get ahead you need to give a little head” Ailes counselled Nicole Kidman’s TV commentator Gretchen Carlson). But the emotional engine is powered by Robbie as the newbie with ambition concealed behind her winning smile, while a mouth-watering supporting cast brings up the rear (Kate McKinnon, Connie Britton and Allison Janney). If the film, for all its smart moves, ultimately feels a tad underwhelming, it may be because the crimes of Roger Ailes pale in comparison to those perpetrated by another media monster, whose film biography is yet to be finalised.




Cast: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow, Kate McKinnon, Connie Britton, Mark Duplass, Rob Delaney, Malcolm McDowell, Allison Janney, Liv Hewson, Mark Moses, Ben Lawson, Josh Lawson, Robin Weigert, Alanna Ubach, Brooke Smith, Nazanin Boniadi, Kevin Dorff, Richard Kind, Jennifer Morrison, Elisabeth Röhm, Alice Eve, Rachael Drummond, P.J. Byrne, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Tony Plana, John Rothman, Madeline Zima, Holland Taylor.


Dir Jay Roach, Pro Aaron L. Glibert, Jay Roach, Robert Graf, Michelle Graham, Charles Randolph, Margaret Riley, Charlize Theron, AJ Dix and Beth Kono, Screenplay Charles Randolph, Ph Barry Ackroyd, Pro Des Mark Ricker, Ed Jon Poll, Music Theodore Shapiro, Costumes Colleen Atwood, Dialect coaches Carla Meyer and Liz Himelstein.


Bron Creative/Annapurna Pictures/Denver + Delilah Productions/Gramsci Lighthouse Management & Media/Creative Wealth Media-Lionsgate.

108 mins. USA/Canada. 2019. Rel: 17 January 2020. Cert. 15.