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Review: She Said (2022)

She Said (2022)

Directed by: Maria Schrader

Premise: Based on true events. New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan) investigate claims of sexual harassment and assault by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, culminating in the publication of the 2017 story.

What Works: She Said is a journalism procedural like All the President’s Men and Spotlight. Procedurals are about the process, in this case the investigative shoe-leather reporting of New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey as they investigate sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood. Much like their characters, the filmmakers methodically work through the details of the case, making connections with the victims and hearing their testimonies as well as working with Weinstein’s representatives and coping with their attempts to stop the story from going forward. The filmmakers lay out the case against Weinstein efficiently and clearly while also keeping touch with the human cost of these crimes. She Said matches the investigative plot with characterizations of these women’s lives. Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey are played by Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan, respectively, and each woman’s personal life is dramatized so that they have identities of their own; they are more than just reporters and we observe the emotional toll that researching this story has on their lives. The filmmakers create a hostile atmosphere. Aside from the Weinstein story, there are moments of implicit and explicit sexual threats throughout the movie. This comes in contrast to the foregrounding of the female characters. Aside from Kantor and Twohey, there is a lot of emphasis on the victims as well as people like New York Times editor Rebecca Corbett (Patricia Clarkson). While there are prominent male characters in the movie, She Said comes across as a story of women standing together against abuse in a misogynistic world.

What Doesn’t: The Harvey Weinstein scandal was well publicized and She Said doesn’t really reveal anything new about the case. It’s not a story about ambiguity or nuance. Weinstein and his operatives stonewalled reporters but there is no question about what he’s done. There’s also little sense that Kantor and Twohey will fail and the story lacks tension. She Said hints at a bigger issue – the way in which systems protect abusers. The movie doesn’t really make that case. If anything, it makes the opposite point. The prologue starts with accusations made against then presidential candidate Donald Trump and Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. As covered in the film, Trump got elected but O’Reilly lost his show and Weinstein’s wrongdoings are ultimately exposed. The film doesn’t quite articulate that institutional critique which was better dramatized in Bombshell and The Assistant.   

Bottom Line: She Said is a solid journalism procedural. There are no shocking revelations for anyone who has paid attention to this story and to the #MeToo movement. But the filmmakers succeed at dramatizing this story and visualizing the human element of it.

Episode: #929 (December 4, 2022)