07 June 2020
Quite how they messed this up is something I’m struggling to comprehend. It turns out having three talented leads (recognisable the world over despite the prosthetics they got to wear for this), a topic that is … well … topical, and a decent director don’t guarantee a good film. It is unsure as to what it tries to be and instead woefully tries its hand to be exciting, enticing, and emotional, while giving that all-too-important message on its way to facedown ignominy.
Something is not right at Fox News studios as a number of high-profile (and some low-profile) female employees start to voice their concern about the behaviour of their boss, Roger Ailes (played by John Lithgow) that goes back a few years. But Fox News and Ailes are the beasts that can’t be slain by even the most powerful of their employees. The despicable acts surface when Gretchen Carlson (played by Nicole Kidman) sues Ailes after she’s laid off. Her colleague (but, crucially, not friend) Megan Kelly (Charlize Theron) is having a crisis of conscience whether to reveal what she knows to be true too. But she won’t for a number of reason that are never too clear, but mostly because they haven’t been explored enough here. Meanwhile, the fictional Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie) is currently living through these horrors.
The problem is the timidity of the film. These women confronted a very powerful man and brought him down, but the film doesn’t do them any justice. I guess we knew or can venture what will transpire, but the film takes its sweet time to get there. Whilst I liked that Kayla was a fictional character that epitomised a number of women that were treated this way by Ailes, her character ticks all the cliches as if they were deliberately trying it (uber-religious background, sexual experimentation, doe-eyed innocence, professional ambitions … they’re throwing everything at her). It’s not convincing in the slightest and despite Robbie’s best efforts, her character is there just to make up the numbers. I wish the story was about one of these women and not the three of them as their paths and their stories are so distinct that the overall effect is anything but cathartic.
Last, but not least, I’m sick of having actors with prosthetics trying to mimick their real-life counterparts. It’s distracting and takes everything away from the seriousness or effectiveness of the stories. It’s like having a roll call of unnecessary cameos just to have a talking point afterwards.
With the talent that was available, this could have been very, very good indeed. As is, it’s a terrible mess.