Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes (Alexis Bloom, 2018): USA

Film reviewed by Jackson Davis. Viewed at AFI Fest 2018.

Divide and Conquer by Alexis Bloom is the fascinating story of Roger Ailes and his rise from producer on The Mike Douglas Show to CEO of Fox News. The film itself blends interviews, news clips and archive footage to tell his story as both the media giant and as a private citizen. But while this film does do a good job providing some surface level details on Ailes’s time as CEO of Fox, it fails to show just how petty and low Ailes would go in many thing, including his time spent outside the newsroom.

The film begins essentially where Roger’s story began: his childhood before it quickly transitions to his career as producer for The Mike Douglas Show. All the while, it will stop to point out some of Ailes’s lies and media capabilities, both of which he used to drag himself up the network food chain. The film credits Ailes with the elections of Nixon, Reagan, both Bushes, and Trump due to his superior methods in media and broadcasting. But the film tends to cover what most audience members will already know, and chooses to focus on his very extensive and very public sexual harassment allegations and lawsuits.

While the film touched on a few points of Roger’s private life, such as buying the local newspaper from the small town he moved to, it never went into much detail on what would’ve been the most intriguing part of Ailes’s life. We got a few glimpses of this side of him, but we never got to see it fully. In my opinion, there was too much time spent on how Ailes was in pubic, and not how he was when he was out of the spotlight. The films subtitle is “The Story of Roger Ailes”, but it feels like were aren’t getting the whole story.

This lack of depth is furthered in the harassment allegations against some of the other key figures at fox, like Bill O’Reilly, and Steve Doocy. While the charges brought against them are brought up, they are always quickly passed over, and never shown in much detail. The media corporation Ailes created should be shown more in the documentary about him, but it just feels as though we are being told a Wikipedia style summary of Ailes’s character, not the man.

 

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