Bombshell (2019)

Bombshell poster

A group of women take on Fox News head Roger Ailes and the toxic atmosphere he presided over at the network.

SHORT VERSION

Roger Ailes (John Lithgow), is the chairman of Fox News and a sexual predator who harasses women for decades. Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman), tired of it all, is fired and sues Roger for sexual harassment and wrongful termination, assuming that other women will come forward.. which they don’t, at first. At Fox, everyone is pressured to support Roger, especially star Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron), but she knows the truth – Roger harassed her in her early days. She doesn’t want to come forward initially, burned by her public battle with Donald Trump, so she seeks out other women who it has happened to and urges them to come forward, including the once-idealistic Kayla (Margot Robbie), who chastises Megyn for not saying anything and stopping it from happening further. Kayla and many other women go to the investigators, and eventually Megyn comes forward as well. Roger is fired from Fox, and Gretchen receives a twenty million dollar settlement.

MEDIUM VERSION

Roger Ailes is the head of Fox News, the primary televised source of conservative news. He runs the corporation with fear and determination and is seen as an icon. The stories of three women employed at Fox are told: Megyn Kelly, Gretchen Carlson, and Kayla Pospisil. Kelly is one of the most popular anchors/commentators at Fox and prepares to co-moderate the 2016 Republican debate. The day of the debate, she becomes sick and throws up, but nevertheless questions Donald Trump on the comments he has made about women. In retaliation, he sends out several tweets hurting her reputation, causing others to do the same. Kelly is further ridiculed by reporters and others. One reporter sneaks into their home in order to take pictures of her daughter, causing her husband, Douglas, to kick him out by force. When she returns, Fox hires a security detail to protect her and refuses to go after Trump. Ailes, who is a fan of Kelly, becomes paranoid with protecting her and thinks that someone poisoned her the day of the debate.

Meanwhile, Carlson is the co-anchor of the popular program Fox and Friends, but she is taken off and given a slightly worse position on a show less popular. She often faces sexist comments by others on and off air which angers her. She meets with several lawyers who tell her not to engage with these newfound enemies and tell her the story of Rudi Bakhtiar who was fired for coming out against her employer, accusing him of sexual harassment. They explain to her their plan to file a harassment suit against Ailes personally and tell her she will need evidence and have other women come out and say something which Carlson is confident will happen.

Pospisil is the newest hire at Fox, a young conservative from a religious background. She starts off working for Carlson, but soon is offered to come aboard and work for The O’Reilly Factor. Carlson asks her to stay with her and warns her to be careful, but she refuses and questions why she shouldn’t take the job. On her first day, Bill O’Reilly dismisses her and she is consoled by a coworker, Jess Carr. Pospisil and Carr both get drunk and sleep together. When they wake up, Pospisil explains that she is not a lesbian and is further shocked to find a poster of Democratic candidate for 2016, Hillary Clinton in Carr’s possession. She questions Carr on why a liberal lesbian would work for Fox. Carr reveals she applied for many jobs, liked this one, and now she is stuck because no one will hire her after working for Fox. Later, Pospisil is invited to Ailes’ office but quickly becomes uncomfortable when he makes obscure passes at her. Disturbed, she tells Carr about it, who regretfully tells her she cannot get involved.

Kelly is sent to do an interview with Trump at Trump Tower, but Douglas is disappointed later that she did not grill him harder. Meanwhile, Carlson does a story and reveals that she is in favor of the assault weapons ban, which causes Ailes to have her come to the office. In the elevator, Carlson meets Pospisil and Kelly. Meeting with executives, Carlson is fired and when she asks why, they do not give her a clear answer. She then decides to sue Ailes, which causes distress among Fox and its workers. Ailes meets with his wife Beth, attorneys Susan Estrich and Rudy Giuliani, and he denies the allegations. Fox calls in all of its female staff and ask that they stand with the corporation, which most of them do, saying they have never been sexually harassed. Kelly, however, does not give an answer, and reveals to her employees that when she was first hired by Fox, Ailes sexually harassed her. She reveals that she wants to remain quiet at this point, despite Fox constantly asking her to support Ailes.

When the lawsuit breaks, no other women at Fox come out, which disappoints Carlson, who believed surely other women would come forward. She does find people who say Ailes did harass them, but before Fox, which does not help her. The people watching also turn on Carlson. Kelly wants to come out with it, but does not want to be the only one and starts to look for other women willing to speak out. Determined to find some, she goes hunting and finds several: all sexually harassed by either Ailes, O’Reilly, or some other male at Fox. Kelly meets with Pospisil and asks her if Ailes did harass her. Pospisil says yes but questions Kelly on why she did not come forth when it happened and won’t come out now. Kelly explains because it wasn’t her job to do so.

While out on a date, Pospisil calls Carr and asks if she did call Kelly and give her name to her. Carr confesses she did because she was worried about her and Pospisil tearfully confesses that she was willing to obey Ailes for fear over her career, and tells Carr she thinks she wants to come forward. Meanwhile, Kelly comes forward and learns 22 other women will be doing the same. Estrich comes to Ailes and reveals Carlson has evidence of recorded conversations with them that will win them the case and that they wanted him to deny the allegations to prove he was lying. Ailes meets with his old friend and co-creator of Fox, Rupert Murdoch, who reveals that he will be fired and talks about the future of the network. Ailes asks to break the news to everyone himself, but Murdoch does not allow it. While speaking at the RNC, Kelly receives a call that Ailes has been fired. Pospisil also gets the news and tells Carr she should come out which at first it looks like she will, but when Murdoch enters the room, she refuses. Murdoch explains that he will be taking over Fox. Pospisil knows that she will be fired and instead quits which makes Carr happy.

Meanwhile, Carlson receives a large settlement of $20 million and an apology from the network, surprising her. Her lawyers tell her that she cannot tell her story as it is part of the deal which she is hasty about and she tells her audience that she does not care if they like her, but that they believe her.

LONG VERSION

Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) is the chairman of Fox News, and runs the network from the second floor of the building with an iron fist. The story interweaves the stories of three different women who work at Fox News.

Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron), one of the network’s biggest stars, prepares to moderate a debate of the Republican candidates for president. Despite some pushback from colleagues, she is determined to ask Trump about his sexist comments towards women. The day of the debate, she gets extremely sick, vomiting in the bathroom. She goes on anyway and asks him about his comments. He spends the evening tweeting viciously about her, inciting his followers to attack her as well. Megyn is distressed at the amount of hate she receives and about the fact that she has become the story instead of reporting it.

During her time off, she gets rude comments made to her and a paparazzo appears outside her window, taking pictures of her daughter, forcing her husband Douglas (Mark Duplass) to get rid of him. When she returns to work, while Fox hires a security detail, the network is not going to come out against Trump. Roger, who is close with Megyn, is notoriously paranoid, and believes that Megyn was poisoned the day of the debate.

Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman), was the co-host of Fox and Friends, but was removed from that spot and given a less valuable afternoon one. After enduring sexist comment after sexist comment (often on the air), she is tired of it. She meets with attorneys who tell her that her contract makes it tough for her to fight back in any way – they tell her the story of Rudi Bakhitar (Nazanin Boniadi) who was fired after not accepting her boss’s sexual advances. They tell her the workaround would be to sue Roger directly, but she’d need to have hard evidence, and other women would need to come forward – Gretchen is certain other women will, and returns to work.

Kayla Popisil (Margot Robbie) is a young conservative raised in a religious home who worships Fox news. She has begun her career there working under Gretchen, until she is offered a promotion to Bill O’Reilly’s show, the network’s biggest program. On one of her shows, Gretchen wears no makeup to show and support women, and Roger storms down to the studio and makes a vicious comment about her appearance, which Kayla hears. She then tells Gretchen she’s leaving – Gretchen wants her to stay, and tells her she can protect her, but Kayla doesn’t see why she should turn down a promotion. She moves to O’Reilly and gets chewed out by him her first day – her co-worker, Jess Carr (Kate McKinnon), helps her out by showing her how to make Fox News stories – terrify your grandmother, outrage your grandfather.

One day after a round of work drinks, Kayla and Jess sleep together, though Kayla tells Jess she isn’t a lesbian. She is shocked to find a Hilary poster in Jess’s apartment, and wants to know why a gay Hilary supporter works at Fox. Jess explains she applied to many jobs but this was the one that stuck, and now no one else will hire her because she works at Fox. At work, Kayla tells Jess to hide a photo she has with another woman. Kayla is invited to Roger’s office to meet with him, and she’s excited at the idea of being promoted to on air talent. She tells him this, and he asks her to get up and do a twirl for him. He then asks to see more of her legs. He keeps doing this until she, extremely uncomfortable, pulls her skirt up high enough that he can see her underwear. He dismisses her, and she tries to tell Jess about it, but Jess sadly tells her she can’t be involved.

Time passes, and Megyn goes to interview Trump at Trump Tower. When she reviews the footage, Douglas is angry that it seems like she let him off the hook with barely a slap on the wrist. Meanwhile, Gretchen does a story on her show where she tells the audience that she supports a ban an assault weapons, and is asked to come to the second floor. All three women end up in the elevator at the same time, as Kayla is sent up to Roger’s office, and Gretchen meets with executives who fire her. She wants to know why, but isn’t given a reason. Gretchen files suit against Roger, which sends the Fox offices into high alert. Roger meets with his wife Beth (Connie Britton), attorney Susan Estrich (Allison Janney), and Rudy Giuliani (Richard Kind), and denies all the claims.

Fox tells all of their female talent to come out and support Roger, which many of them do happily, saying they were never harassed. Megyn is silent, and she tells her staff the truth – because Roger harassed her when she began at the network. Her second-in-command, Gil (Rob Delaney) wants to know what she wants to do – she tells him she just spent all that time being the news, and she doesn’t want to insert herself into this just yet. Fox, however, keeps pressuring Megyn to make a statement in support of Roger.

In the initial aftermath of the suit, not one other woman comes forward, deeply disappointing Gretchen, who had really believed other women would speak out. Investigators do find six women who were horrifically sexually harassed by Roger, but before Fox News, which isn’t helpful to Gretchen’s suit or public perception. Megyn considers coming forward, but does not want to be the only one, and begins hunting for the other women, despite the danger of doing so at Fox.

She eventually follows a few leads herself and finds multiple women who have been harassed or assaulted by Roger, Bill O’Reilly, and other men at the network and convinces them to go to the investigators. She meets with Kayla, who she is asks if Roger harassed her. Kayla admits he did, and Megyn tells her it happened to her. Kayla is angry, wanting to know why she did nothing to protect women after her and why she isn’t doing anything now. Megyn tells Kayla it isn’t her job to protect her and to report the harassment.

While on a date with a man, Kayla calls Jess, crying, asking if she gave Megyn her name. Jess tells her she was worried about her, and Kayla tells her through tears that she gave into Roger. Jess is sorry, and when Kayla tells her she thinks she wants to go to the investigators, she encourages her to do so. Megyn finally comes forward, which is a massive nail in Roger’s coffin. When she is interviewed by the investigators, she sees her name is “Witness W”, and realizes that 23 women have come forward. Susan tells Roger that Gretchen recorded all of their meetings, and has proof of everything in the suit. He asks why they didn’t say anything before, and Susan tells Roger they wanted him to deny everything only to prove he was lying.

Roger meets with Rupert Murdoch (Malcolm McDowell), his longtime friend and owner of Fox News, and the term’s of Roger’s exit are settled. Roger asks to go to the newsroom to tell everyone, but Rupert says no. Megyn is at the Republican National Convention when she is informed that Roger is out. Kayla, happy that Roger is gone, takes Jess’s photo out of her drawer and encourages her to keep it out – Jess hides it anyway once Murdoch enters the newsroom where he gives a speech to them them that Roger is gone and he will be taking over. Kayla, realizing she is done with Fox News, walks out, tossing her badge into the trash as Jess watches her go, happy for her.

Gretchen gets a settlement offer of twenty million dollars and an apology from Fox News, which she can’t believe she got. She tells the audience she doesn’t care if they like her, she just cares that they believe her. Her attorneys tell her that along with the settlement comes a non-disclosure, which means she can never tell her story. Gretchen looks out into the audience and says, “maybe”.

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