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Sunday, 8 September 2019

Streaming on Stan - Rod Bishop reviews THE LOUDEST VOICE (7 Episodes directed by Kari Skoglan, Jeremy Podeswa, Scott Z Burns & Stephen Frears, USA, 2019)

Here’s something you don’t see every day. 
Rupert Murdoch getting pushed around. 
Russell Crowe, Simon McBurney, The Loudest Voice
Firstly, by the frightening Republican bully Roger Ailes (Russell Crowe) and later - to a lesser degree - by the Michelle-Obama-adoring Wendi Deng (Julee Cerda).
For most Australians, however, The Loudest Voice’s biggest problem is the ridiculously unconvincing Rupert Murdoch. Played by Simon McBurney, the English thespian produces the worst Australian accent since … well, since forever. The timbre of McBurney’s voice is nothing like Murdoch’s and, a few facial features aside, he doesn’t look much like dear old Rupert. To make matters worse, he calls everyone “mate” and is portrayed as the wimpiest media tycoon imaginable.
Lachlan Murdoch, played by American Barry Watson, at least vaguely resembles the anointed son, but that’s more to do with the skills of the wardrobe department, than anything else. Watson doesn’t sound remotely Australian either.
On this front at least, Russell Crowe and Naomi Watts show the rest of the cast how to convincingly impersonate American accents. It’s said Watts had to work hard to make her Minnesota accent acceptable, but this may only be of interest to Minnesotans. 
Years ago, bemused at the way our Aussie actors seemed to fly into the States, adopt an American accent and get away with it, I asked a longtime friend in Los Angeles how this was possible. He set me straight: “When we hear an American accent we haven’t heard before; we just assume it’s from some part of the country we’ve never been to.” That simple, it seems.
Playing Ailes and Gretchen Carlson, Crowe and Watts have the best roles they have had in a while and deserve to figure prominently at the Emmys. 
Ailes, we are told, single handedly created Fox News. He hires and fires, he runs the programming schedule, the news room, the television production studios and even writes some of the “journalism”. He coaches prospective “personalities” like Sean Hannity, he advices on colour schemes for the sets and during program breaks, even stops makeup artists from taking sweat off interviewees faces.
And he’s a monster. He humiliates, abuses, belittles and sexually harasses. He’s a bigot and a racist and a misogynist, but when his voice drops and he puts on his best puppy dog eyes, he excels at passive aggression. 
The series painstakingly details his right-wing fanaticism and his decades-long sexual harassment of female employees. He’s convinced Obama is “a Muslim in the White House”; that anyone with leftist causes who chooses activism is a “communist”; that all the major print and news outlets in the USA are run by liberal elites. He believes Fox News is balanced and fair because it is counteracting (that is, “balancing”) the leftist monolith of news organisations in the rest of the country.
He alone decides to push the bogus weapons-of-mass-destruction in Iraq with Dick Cheney’s full cooperation, despite both men knowing there is not a single piece of evidence to substantiate the claim. He champions Trump and gets rid of anyone who disagrees with him. Not being able to fire Rupert Murdoch, he either belligerently shouts his boss down until he gets his way, or, failing that, gets petulant and threatens to resign. Rupert backs down every time. 
Except for one. At his last audience with Murdoch, James and Lachlan are in attendance. Ailes looks at them: “What are they doing here?” “I just came to watch” replies Lachlan. Never imagined Lachlan Murdoch might have a sense of humour.

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