Directed by Maria Schrader.
Starring Zoe Kazan, Carey Mulligan, Patricia Clarkson, Andre Braugher, Samantha Morton, Jennifer Ehle, Adam Shapiro, Maren Heary, Sean Cullen, Anastasia Barzee, Keilly McQuail, Hilary Greer, Wesley Holloway, Emma Clare O’Connor, Justine Colan, Edward Astor Chin, Ashley Chiu, Zach Grenier, John Mazurek, Sarah Ann Masse, Maren Lord, Tom Pelphrey, Davram Stiefler, Mike Houston, George Walsh, and Ashley Judd.
New York Times reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor break down one of the most important stories of a generation — a story that helped launch the #MeToo movement and shattered decades of silence on sexual assault in Hollywood .
An influx of films investigating the serial sexual abuse of former powerful producer Harvey Weinstein is inevitable. The revelation by New York Times reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor rocked the industry, so investigating this onscreen is a no-brainer. Of course, projects dealing with highly sensitive issues that are still fresh in the mind can easily go sideways for a number of reasons. Director Maria Schrader she said (with a screenplay by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, based on the book by the above two brave reporters) wisely chooses a safe, dry, fact-based approach that respects the survivors and their trauma. Simply telling the story through dramatized journalistic research is the logical path for the first major film to explore the Miramax mogul.
Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor are played by Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan respectively, each with more experience than the other. The former has had some success encouraging women to speak out about sexual harassment (the film’s opening sequence takes a brief look at the circus that was the 2016 US presidential election and Bill O’Reilly’s rejection), and joined in Jodi, who investigate reports of sexual abuse in Hollywood, impart wisdom on how to speak to victims, and explain the good that can be achieved by speaking the truth on the record. Their presence as film characters is valuable and necessary to work towards a common goal with different levels of experience in the journalistic field. A lesser film would produce a composite character.
she said continues the tightrope walk by implementing real-life audio detailing various sexual assaults. Maria Schrader skillfully keeps the violence out of the picture, focusing on harrowing stills of rooms and hallways whenever they flash back as characters recount horrific abuse. Samantha Morton and Jennifer Ehle walk away as notable scene thieves, expressing much inner pain and anguish as they search for the courage to come out publicly. Of course, there are also non-disclosure agreements and settlements that enforce an obnoxious level of silence. In some instances, survivors appear in the film playing themselves to provide an extra dose of raw authenticity (I can’t even begin to imagine how mentally exhausting and draining it must be to go back to those psychological places to re-enact some of those conversations Screen).
By employing all of the above and more, she said comes dangerously close to acting as an exploitative true-crime documentary disguised as a narrative feature, but never crosses that line due to the restraint and sensitivity of the script. However, some instances of Megan and Jodi interacting with critical individuals over the phone are sometimes awkward and inorganic. I can only assume it’s the result of real audio or real words being recited by actors being wedged into phone conversations (like trying to force a square pin into a round hole). It’s not necessarily bad, but all the more noticeable and distracting.
However, the script also avoids the usual pitfalls of taking viewers deep into the private lives of journalists she said tries occasionally. It often leads to awkward conversations that feel forced (there’s one digital call where Jodi’s young daughter starts asking questions about rape). Then there are little moments where the dialogue between Megan and Jodi becomes stilted. Because as thoughtful and considerate as the script is to all things investigative and survivor stories, there’s a lot here that could have used a rewrite.
As for Harvey Weinstein himself, the decision to use him as the menacing voice that angrily calls the newsroom, furiously wanting to know who the reporters spoke to, is a brilliant blow that feeds into the recent trend of evil and abuse outside the screen, but his presence felt in a different, equally dramatically impactful way. When he finally shows up (or rather, the back of his head) in the movie, it’s like finally getting a glimpse of a creature’s monster. Not to mention that Natasha Braier finds a devastating image in the use of a slow zoom, switching from the back of that grotesque head to the facial expressions of a reporter confronted by a real bogeyman. Meanwhile, Nicholas Britell compiles another measured score that never gets too overbearing.
There’s also nothing particularly groundbreaking or masterful she said. It’s a solid overview of the investigation, with searing performances from the victims, tight pacing, and a refusal to get too melodramatic. As an icebreaker for Harvey Weinstein films, she said has the right approach that puts the women (journalists and victims) at the center and makes the right decisions. I say it’s great.
Flickering Myth Rating – Movie: ★★★ / Movie: ★★★★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the editor of Flickering Myth Reviews. Check here for new reviews, follow mine Twitter or letterboxd or email me at [email protected]