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Review by Rich Cline | MUST SEE
dir Jay Roach
scr Charles Randolph
prd Jay Roach, Charles Randolph, Aaron L Gilbert, Beth Kono, Margaret Riley
with Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow, Kate McKinnon, Allison Janney, Mark Duplass, Liv Hewson, Connie Britton, Richard Kind, Holland Taylor, Malcolm McDowell
release US 20.Dec.19,
19/US Lionsgate 1h48
Fast and deliciously furious, this true drama recounts the early stirrings of #MeToo, as an army of women finally broke their silence about the toxic masculinity atop Fox News. The film is sharply written and directed to sift through a blinding array of characters and details in a way that's almost startlingly easy to follow. So it's both entertaining and as disturbing as it needs to be.
As Trump storms the 2016 primaries, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly (Theron) is attacked by both colleagues and online trolls for asking him tough questions at a debate. That summer, anchor Gretchen Carlson (Kidman) makes an on-air plea for gun control and is sacked by news boss Roger Ailes (Lithgow). She immediately files a harassment suit against him. While Kelly considers reporting her own abuse at Ailes' hands, other women begin to come forward, including aspiring journalist Kayla (Robbie), encouraged by colleague Jess (McKinnon), who must remain closeted both as gay and as a Democrat.
This story unfolds with energy and pace, skilfully shot (by Barry Ackroyd) and edited (by Jon Poll) to navigate complexities in the narrative and the people. Each scene is infused with humour, including journalistic cynicism, political sarcasm and interpersonal banter. This not adds personality to the wide range of characters, and it also layers intrigue and meaning into everything that happens, making it resonate in unexpected ways. So as it progresses, the film becomes a celebratory affirmation of female power and respect.
Performances are finely tuned, transcending the impressive makeup. In the focal roles, Theron, Kidman and Robbie take the audience deeper into the narrative using quick wit and vivid emotion. Their stories are different, but equally powerful. Lithgow bravely goes all-in as a man who refuses to admit the ugly truth even to himself. In smaller roles, McKinnon, Janney and Duplass add terrific details. And it's great to see veterans like Taylor and McDowell in key cameos.
Director Roach and writer Randolph juggle the plot details with dexterity, maintaining a light-hearted tone even as events become truly harrowing. They cleverly maintain that balance between entertainment and provocation, allowing the themes to emerge through the story without forcing a message. Although there is no doubt that this film is a vivid depiction of toxic masculinity and the importance of empowering victims so that they don't feel weak or traitorous. In other words, it's a rare movie that's thrillingly engaging, darkly pointed and enormously important.
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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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