(director: Jay Roach; screenwriter: Charles Randolph; cinematographer: Barry Ackroyd; editor: Jon Poll; music: Theodore Shapiro; cast: Charlize Theron (Megyn Kelly), Nicole Kidman (Gretchen Carlson), Margot Robbie (Kayla Pospisil), John Lithgow (Roger Ailes), Kate McKinnon (Jess Carr), Connie Britton (Beth Ailes), Mark Duplass (Douglas Brunt), Malcolm McDowell (Rupert Murdoch), Allison Janney (Susan Estrich), Alice Eve (Ainsley Earhardt); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: R; producers: AJ Dix, Beth Kono, Charles Randolph, Jay Roach, Margaret Riley, Michelle Graham; Lionsgate; 2019)

“Though clunky and cartoonish and not serious at times, nevertheless the film is also powerful drama at times.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Jay Roach (“Trumbo”/”Dinner For Schmucks”) bases his TV movie like film on the real scandal at Fox News. Writer Charles Randolph gives us the inside dirt on the take-down of the network’s creator, Roger Ailes (John Lithgow). Fox News is mostly considered to be unreliable by liberals and dependable by conservatives.

Though clunky and cartoonish and not serious at times, nevertheless the film is also powerful drama at times. But, no matter, its soul is always in the right place when exposing the controversial network and its outrages. What is crystal clear is that the popular network despite its bogus state-run news programming also operated as a patriarchal overbearing company that allowed male predators to harass its women employees and get away with it forever until it was reported in public by some brave women at the network.

Roger Ailes, the mogul of Fox News, built it into the conservative media giant it is presently and all sexual complaints were quietly rebuffed under his command. That is, until the station was faced with a law suit that exposed the hypocrisies and wrongs at the network and brought down its chief enabler, the 76-year-old Ailes. He was fired by the big boss at Fox, Rupert Murdoch (Malcolm McDowell), and a year later died.

The soft-spoken and introspective Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) got the ball rolling in the public arena against the sleazy Ailes by revealing a year’s worth of recordings of their private conversations. She filed a law suit and was joined by six other women. But the story here belongs to Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron). The network star journalist anchor struggles whether or not to speak out against her sexually harassing boss (Ailes) while also trying to deal with hostile tweets from the crude President Trump upset with her challenging sexists questions as a panelist during one of the Republican debates.

Margot Robbie plays a fictional Fox producer named Kayla, with still another tale to tell of how she submitted herself to be humiliated. We are led to believe from interviews with the writer that she’s a combination of several of Ailes’ accusers–a conservative, evangelical, superfan of the network whose ambitions of being a Fox anchor has gotten her in trouble in Ailes’ private office. Kayla, who is either naive or shrewd, depending on which part of the film you are seeing, plays the confusing character who will begin an intimate relationship with co-worker Jess Carr (Kate McKinnon).

There’s enough dirt here for political junkies to smirk at its raw depictions of news coverage and enough juice for them to gulp down its tales of studio in-fighting among the blonde females. But it’s the convincing performances that make it at least palatable as modest entertainment.

REVIEWED ON 12/18/2019  GRADE: B-