Scandal: the first big movie of the #MeToo era [Critique]

The new Jay Roach encapsulates the #MeToo era by revisiting the cases of sexual harassment with which the boss of Fox News has been accused.

Early 2021 came out Scandal, with Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie. An interesting film to (re) see this Sunday: it arrives in clear on television, on France 2. Here is the criticism of First.

It is a largely unrecognized affair on our side of the Atlantic, but one which has deeply stirred the United States. In July 2016, in the midst of the American presidential campaign, the all-powerful and very conservative 24-hour news channel Fox News exploded from within: its CEO and founder, Roger Ailes (played by John Lithgow), was accused of sexual harassment and unfair dismissal by presenter Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman). If the old man, placed at the top by billionaire Rupert Murdoch, denies outright, other presenters well known to the public also break the law of silence … Scandal traces this story in detail through the prism of star journalist Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron), known to the American public in particular for his muscular verbal jousting with the future president (following a heated debate, Donald Trump will say with the class that defines him he “There was blood coming out of his eyes, blood coming out of his … well you see”).

The political angle, Scandal will never completely evacuate it, wanting to prove that Trump, Ailes and the others are part of a macho system larger than the windowless basement of the Fox News editorial staff. Because the stake here is nothing less than to show its workings, to capture the time and the individuality of the victims, without playing the white knights. At first slightly embarrassed by the weight weighing on their shoulders, Jay Roach (Austin powers, Dalton trumbo) and screenwriter Charles Randolph defy expectations by approaching the subject in a playful way in the first few minutes: looking the viewer in the eye and speaking directly to them, Megyn Kelly takes us around the owner with a deceptively relaxed air. Mechanics borrowed from The Big Short: The Heist of the Century (of which Randolph was co-writer), finally quickly abandoned to make way for portraits of complex women.

Dangerous game

If Nicole Kidman is often impeccable, an Oscar nomination seems obvious for Charlize Theron who finds there her best role for years. Unrecognizable and with a crazy accuracy in the ambiguity of her character, she plays a careerist divided between the desire to testify and the fear of no longer being on the air. Should we speak, at the risk of having suffered these abuses ” for nothing “ ? Should we continue to play the game? Wearing T-shirts “Team Roger”, like some blinded Fox News collaborators? It is in this gray area, between the desire for power and the feeling of guilt, that Scandal sharpens its universal focus on sexual assault at work.

The law of silence

Roger Ailes had made sure to trap his victims by accelerating their careers, asking them – obviously – in passing to remain silent. In one scene, he receives Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie, formidable, who plays a completely fictional aspiring presenter) in his office well out of sight, officially to provide him with career advice. At first a good child, the conversation quickly gets out of hand. Ailes asks her to turn around to see if her body looks good on screen, before ordering her to pull up her skirt. ” A little more. A bit more. A bit more… “ All of the ambitions of Scandal are summed up here, in that terrifyingly intense perverse gaze of John Lithgow, and Margot Robbie’s face, soiled, in shock, holding back tears. It is as heartbreaking as it is elegantly filmed, without pathos. Kayla Pospisil becomes all the victims at the same time and it is obvious at this moment that we are facing the first big movie of the #MeToo era. He had been waiting for a few years.

The trailer for Scandal :

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