MOVIE REVIEW: Heavyweights bring #MeToo story to life
Director: Jay Roach
Starring: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie
Running time: 109 minutes
Verdict: Explosively entertaining
For a female TV anchor, those immaculately coiffured blonde locks and tailored, figure-hugging dresses can act as a kind of armour.
This point is brought home, in the appropriately titled Bombshell, by former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson's (Nicole Kidman) decision to front the camera sans make-up for International Women's Day - an act that leaves her strangely vulnerable.
But the newsreaders' uniform look doesn't stop any one of them from being singled out by a predatory boss.
Nor, until Carlson finally takes a stand, does it translate into any kind of collective strength.
Directed by Jay Roach (Austin Powers, Meet the Fockers), with a lightness of touch that belies the sordid nature of his material, Bombshell explores the events surrounding Fox CEO Roger Ailes's (John Lithgow) dramatic fall from grace.
The story is told from the point of view of controversial Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron), who dared to confront Donald Trump over his comments about women at the first Republican presidential debate in 2015.
Trump's response, delivered in a CNN interview, lit up the twittersphere.
In the cutthroat, ratings-driven world of mainstream media, a woman's gender makes her an easy target ("There was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever," Trump famously said).
And Ailes - Kelly's boss - had publicly supported the billionaire businessman.
So the Fox News anchor eventually made a kind of peace with the presidential candidate.
But according to the screenplay by Charles Randolph, which is based on the accounts of several former Fox News employees, that incident sowed the seed for what happened next.
When Carlson took the calculated gamble of suing Aisles for sexual harassment, a conflicted Kelly eventually decided to come forward, along with a number of their other colleagues.
They faced strong opposition, even from some of the other key female employees at Fox News.
One of Bombshell's strengths is the way it embraces the characters' complex allegiances - these are powerful women who aren't accustomed to thinking of themselves as "victims".
Kelly, for example, has risen up the ranks under Ailes's leadership.
A shrewd political animal, she is very much his intellectual equal. Their professional relationship is seemingly robust.
Margot Robbie's composite character, Kayla Pospisil, is more superficially vulnerable.
Conservative, lesbian, Christian - no wonder the Australian actress fails to nail this character quite as comprehensively as some of her others - Pospisil is on the fast track for success.
The scene in which Ailes auditions (perhaps "grooms" would be a more accurate description) her for a front-of-camera role is excruciating.
A compelling - and at times bitingly funny - account of a seminal #MeToo moment brought to life by three heavyweight talents.
Theron, almost unrecognisable beneath make-up artist Kazu Hiro's subtly transformative prosthetics, carries the film.
* Bombshell opens on Thursday.