'She Said' Review: Film About Weinstein Investigations is Effective, Honest Work

'She Said' Review: Film About Weinstein Investigations is Effective, Honest Work

'She Said' stars Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan in lead roles.

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She Said

'She Said' Review: Film About Harvey Weinstein #MeToo Investigations is Effective, Honest Work

The year is 2017. Two New York Times reporters - Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey - published a series of haunting articles about celebrated film producer Harvey Weinstein, raising allegations that he sexually abused and assaulted actresses and employees for decades.

The articles started the #MeToo movement worldwide, leading to similar investigations and demands for a safer workplace environment. Weinstein was convicted of rape and assault in 2020 and is currently serving a 23-year-long sentence.

A still from She Said.

(Photo Courtesy: Pinterest)

This is the premise of Maria Schrader's film She Said, based on the book by the same title by Kantor and Twohey. With multiple movies revolving around the #MeToo movement and the outcome of this case too well-known, I was a little apprehensive about the gaze of this movie. Their was a risk of the tone getting self-congratulatory, but what's reassuring is that She Said takes a page from the greatest newspaper movies and narrates a story with great sensitivity.

The movie opens with Twohey (played by Carey Mulligan) trying to convince and reassure a woman to go on record about being sexually abused. It seems that they are talking about Weinstein, but as the film progresses we are told that the abuser in question is Donald Trump, who is also the then Presidential candidate.

Cut to several months later, and Twohey is the mother of a baby girl. She tries hard to embrace the new chapter in her life, but it becomes increasingly difficult with postpartum depression. On the other hand Kantor (Zoe Kazan) is struggling to balance her personal life with the big story she is working on - an investigation of sexual misconduct at workplaces.

Kantor's investigation leads her to the rumour that Miramax, a company founded by Weinstein and his brother Bob, is a hellhole for women.

She chances upon Rose McGowan’s account of rape by Weinstein. Kantor starts making calls after calls to see if anyone was willing to go on record.

Schrader and Rebecca Lenkiewicz's film stays true to the events of the book - Kantor teaming up with Twohey once she was convinced about the seriousness of the complaints against Weinstein. How they gathered evidence by speaking to women off record - first McGowan, then Ashley Judd (who plays herself), then Gwyneth Paltrow (who isn't depicted in the movie), and even former assistants bound by NDAs, who ignored calls because they were too afraid to speak. How the two journalists figured out a sickening pattern of behaviour: predation disguised as business meetings, creating a toxic environment governed by fear, drafting elaborate settlements, harassing the women to an extent that they found it impossible to speak up. Kantor and Twohey, along with editor Rebecca Corbett (Patricia Clarkson) and Times head Dean Bacquet (Andre Braugher), toil through months to bring Weinstein down.

The most effective and heart-wrenching moments in the movie are listening to the women recount the horror they went through.

Ashley Judd, who goes on record at a very crucial time, is an embodiment of grace and determination. Recollections by former assistants Zelda Perkins (Samantha Morton), Rowena Chiu (Angela Yeoh), and Laura Madden (Jennifer Ehle) are devastating. "He took my voice … just as I was about to start finding it", Laura says as she breaks down. The current accounts are interspersed with flashes of the women's younger, happier days, conveying the fear, shame and disappointment they faced for years.

A Still from She Said.

(Photo Courtesy: Pinterest)

Mulligan and Kazan have their moments as well, and they deliver applause-worthy performances. Sitting on a mountain of evidence, there are powerful scenes where the duo can be seen almost crumbling under the enormity of what they have to expose - centuries of women being conditioned to tolerate abuse and humiliation and then blame themselves for it.

What sets She Said apart from many other movies dealing with sexual abuse is that the film doesn't portray Weinstein as the sole villain. It pulls up the entire system for being complicit and enabling the behaviour which eventually created the monster.

The Morning Show and Bombshell have brought to light the systemic sexism and deep-rooted conservatism that exist in institutions, and now She Said has joined the league.

Moreover, the film also draws focus to the importance of investigative journalism, the need to make a story legible and relatable by getting the facts right, and the stress that every journalist goes through before hitting 'Publish'. Ultimately it's just not about chasing the 'big' story, there are little things that we need to get right too.

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