Among many of the 21st century’s Hollywood scandals, it’s hard to top the shockwaves sent following the revelation that big-time producer Harvey Weinstein inflicted sexual abuse and violence toward numerous women, according to investigative reporting by The New York Times in late 2017. The world has followed the story as more than 80 women eventually came forward with claims leading the co-founder of Miramax to be fired from his company, found guilty of his crimes and sentenced to 23 years of imprisonment. The breaking of that story led to a global trend of more and more people coming forward to talk about sexual misconduct in the workplace, and by powerful men, giving viral momentum to the #MeToo movement. But, what happened in the moments before The New York Times story was published?
Maria Schrader’s She Said takes audiences in between the bylines of The New York Times’ Harvey Weinstein reporting to showcase exactly how the newspaper uncovered his behavior. Based on the 2019 novel of the same name by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, the movie follows their experiences in exposing Weinstein’s history of abuse and sexual misconduct against women. She Said not only humanizes a historical moment, but delicately enlightens the public about what it takes for for the journalists behind it to unveil an important truth.
She Said is focused on the NYT journalists who broke the Harvey Weinstein scandal, and it works.
Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan respectively star as Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, and they provide especially excellent performances of real women who persevered as they got past a wall of silent survivors. The actresses elevate a careful script, which gives both Twohey and Kantor’s stories a place to breath outside their professions. It really embrace them as the actual people that they are: working mothers, wives and investigative journalists who sacrificed a lot of their time and patience to break a story that was not easy to crack. Mulligan brings a concise and composed air to Twohey, whereas Kazan’s Kantor is bellowing with a warmth of emotion as she somewhat nervously takes on the towering figure of Weinstein’s reputation. With them as leads, there’s no malice about the telling of this story.
She Said is thorough about taking audiences into the process of all the steps these journalists needed to take in order to prove in writing of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and get the various survivors on record with the thousands of rows of red tape between them to stop the story from seeing the light of day. Through the lens of these investigative journalists, a solemn topic is made into an engaging thriller and inspiring biopic that certainly makes it worthy to revisit this recent event in history. Now, much of She Said is a series of back and forth calls and messages, lunch and dinner meetings. Considering the minutiae of telling this story, its filmmakers do a rather good job of adapting it to screen, but it can certainly quite lean heavily into the procedural side of it all.
She Said is respectful in its approach to discussing its story about sexual misconduct.
The heart of She Said is a lot of pent-up trauma from women who experienced something horrible at the hands of Harvey Weinstein. This movie does a terrific job of not having its audience gruel over too much of the content in the underbelly. It has a good balance of exposing the right details of Harvey Weinstein’s scandal without getting too intimate with the wrong, and potentially triggering, ones. Again, because the story does focus so much on the perspective of its journalists, it successfully maintains an approach just outside the center of the deep wounds, while another film on this topic may have poked too far into the agony of it all.
Throughout the film, as Twohey and Kantor find more people to talk to inside of the skeletons in Weinstein’s closet, there are a series of short sequences that do give point of view to survivors in an empathetic way. By carefully weaving in many of their stories along the way, She Said really gives a voice to why it was difficult for many women to go on the record and brings context to why this story was so groundbreaking to finally crack after so many years without consequence.
Maria Schrader’s drama is informative above all else.
Just as the New York Times article served as a public service of Harvey Weinstein’s crimes, She Said works in tandem with it to tell the story behind the story. This is a movie that seeks to give the public more information about the scandal that is much more riveting than reading article after article about it. For generations to come, audiences can return to this film to understand how this moment in the #MeToo movement happened. It reminds one a lot of 2016 Best Picture winner Spotlight in its tone and storytelling.
She Said is a respectful and tender approach to the Harvey Weinstein story. Its achievement is a direct one, as you’ll come away with more context and a greater understanding of the viral dawn of #MeToo.