THERE is a certain irony in Bombshell being nominated for a best make-up and hairstyling Oscar. An expose of the image-obsessed broadcast news industry being praised for making its stars look good. You have to laugh.

Bombshell is the true tale of how the most powerful man on American television, the late Roger Ailes, was toppled after women came forward to accuse him of sexual harassment. A film inspired by the #MeToo movement, its strength lies fittingly enough in the performances of the three female leads, Charlize Theron, Margot Robbie, and Nicole Kidman, the first two of whom are up for best actress and best supporting actress Oscars respectively.

Ailes was the founder of Fox News, President Trump’s favourite channel. The story begins when The Donald was a mere Republican candidate for office. “He’s never going to be president,” says news anchor Megyn Kelly (Theron). In a live TV debate, Kelly takes the wannabe commander-in-chief to task over his attitude to women, only for Trump to hit back on Twitter as only he would dare. Kelly might be a hugely well-paid, well-connected individual, but she is made to feel small and vulnerable because of her gender.

While Kelly is being put through the mill by the right, another anchor, Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) fears she is being sidelined by Ailes because of her age and sex. After she dares to present a show make-up free to make a feminist point, Ailes tells her: “Nobody wants to watch a middle-aged woman sweat her way through the menopause.” Meanwhile, at the other end of the ladder from Kelly and Carlson is new start Kayla (Margot Robbie), a young woman just fizzing with ideas and keen to get on.

Director Jay Roach, with a screenplay by Charles Randolph, Oscar-winning co-writer of The Big Short, keeps the tale zipping along, but it eventually hares off in too many directions. In addition to the stories of the three central characters (Robbie’s is fictional), other strands look at the corporate politics of the Murdoch organisation. At times, Kidman’s character seems all but forgotten in the scramble.

At the centre of the story is Ailes, played by the always superb John Lithgow, here managing to conjure up the charm and ferocity of the channel chief. Quietly impressive performances, too, from Rob Delaney and Mark Duplass as the men, producer and husband, in Kelly’s life.

Out of the melee, the regal Theron and the always surprising Robbie emerge strongest. It is just a pity the movie does not bring them and Kidman together more. Now that would have been an explosive picture.