The Loudest Voice – Wrong voice
Carried by an intense and prosthetic Russell Crow,
this miniseries follows the controversial Roger Ailes who died in 2017.
By Michael Patin
Reading time 4 min.
“I know what people are gonna say about me, I can pretty much pick the words for you : right wing, paranoid, fat.” The man talking during the opening of The Loudest Voice is dead. On this day of may 18th 2017, the republican strategist Roger Ailes, who created Fox News, dropped his last card to escape his critics and the growing amount of sexual harassment accusations. However, death in not a shelter anymore, in this divided America where fiction in bigger than reality.
Ailes is filmed face against the ground, surrounded by pills, the camera going closer and closer from his wax-like face and dead eyes. A card teleports us in 1995, a time when he still could binge eat turkey in close-up. “And I’m not gonna argue with ’em. I am a conservative. I do like to eat. And I believe in the power of television.“ never before, a political tv-show “based on actual events” dared to be so brutal : a corpse, still warm, talking crudely about himself, saying what people think without being able to answer. How far is it form Citizen Kane (no out of frame no mysteries), but the reference is not insignificant : we will witness the fall of a Powerful. A fall haunting America as a movie also about it is planned for early 2020, Bombshell, starring no more than Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie as the blondes Ailes put on screen and harassed off.
A corpse, talking crudely about himself
saying what people think
The first episode – the best written – endeavors to make Ailes a charismatic person by showing his leading talents (the speech he gives leaving CNBC moving de crowd to tears) and his cleverness as a producer, giving the silenced America a voice to get Drumpf to power. This is Roger Ailes media’s Machiavel, emperor of fake news, braintruster for the masters of this world and cynical guardian of strong conservatism. Hidden behind makeup and prostheses, Russel Crow is having fun, going from seduction to intimidation in a heartbeat, carrying his voice – “the loudest voice in the room”, title of the book the tv-show is originated from – in order to silence others. He is the main draw of the show, assuring his dramatic layer. His only presence is enough to shadow the rest of the cast, reminding Ailes’ swallowing genius.
It is hard not to think about Vice, released last February. If both projects hadn’t started production at the same time, we could have sworn Tom McCarthy had copycat Adam Mckay. Same made up actor disappearing into his character, same ambition to entertain with a struggling angry and powerful man. The simultaneousness proves the climate spreading in America coming with the political, media and power questions : parties are split and violence unleashed. The loudest voice value resides in its serious tone it uses to serve its subject : it is a serious business, almost linear, about psychopaths ruling. Dick Chenney was a buffoon in Vice, Roger Ailes is a monster in The Loudest Voice.
Step by step, we tend to get bored observing the absolute evil and enjoying our moral superiority. When the speaker Gretchen Carlson (Naomi Watts) sues Ailes for sexual harassment, dominoes start falling (the speeches get free, the monster loses his allies), the show focuses on this hot theme, dropping any other subtext. We stop loving to hate Ailes to unequivocally despise him. The title then changes its meaning : it is not Ailes that is louder than anyone but the showrunners through the victims. Fiction switches to trial, show switches to court room. You can find it edifying, even necessary, but we regret The Loudest Voice doesn’t whisper to our ears the complex truth instead of screaming what we already know, what we won’t forget.