At The Movies: She Said
On 5 October 2017, a New York Times investigative article sparked a seismic shift across the globe. It was the catalyst to the downfall of Hollywood film producer and Miramax co-founder Harvey Weinstein. It ignited the #MeToo movement.
Directed by Maria Schrade, She Said is the movie adaptation of Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s 2019 book of the same name.
With a screenplay by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, the film follows Kantor (Zoe Kazan) and Twohey (Carey Mulligan) as they investigate sexual harassment in the entertainment industry. They focus on Weinstein and explore the system that enabled his abhorrent behaviour for decades. An industry that thrives on out-of-court-secret settlements for victims secured with brutal non-disclosure agreements. As they uncover more allegations by multiple women, their attempts to convince accusers to go on the record to validate claims become their driving force.
She Said is steeped in the tradition of investigative reporting films such as All the President’s Men. However, it differs in its perspective. Namely, the viewpoint of the female experience.
Lenkiewicz’s screenplay concentrates on Kantor and Twohey holistically, as complete characters. They are wives and mothers in addition to journalists. The (im)balance of their multiple roles is touched on to a degree. It allows audiences to understand the associated challenges. This slant is suitable for this particular film. It adds a layer, albeit minor, of relatability to the narrative.
The film shines in its emphasis on accusers and the investigative process.
All women Kantor and Twohey speak to are listened to and believed. Allegations are researched. We go on a journey around the world as the journalists door knock without invitation seeking to corroborate accusations. Scenes involving Weinstein are limited. Actual voice recordings from 2015 taped by model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez are spliced into the film. Also, phone calls involving and visuals of the back of Weinstein’s (Mike Houston) head are used. Such techniques reduce Weinstein’s power, shifting it in favour of accusers and Kantor and Twohey.
Where the film struggles is with its stop-start storyline.
The use of flashbacks and time jumps are utilised to progress the narrative. While effective given the twenty-year-plus period of the film, it is also confusing at times due to its sporadic and non-sequential nature. Laura Madden (Jennifer Ehle) is an imperative character in the story. However, her importance is diminished by irregular flashbacks with no immediate connection. By the conclusion of the film, the pieces slot into place, but it is akin to forcefully mashing a jigsaw puzzle together.
Kazan and Mulligan offer captivating performances as the protagonists. The likeability of the characters assists audiences in gaining trust in them, similar to the women their characters seek information from. In scenes with their New York Times colleagues, Rebecca Corbett (Patricia Clarkson) and Dean Baquet (Andre Braugher), they collectively generate a want for success from viewers.
Kantor and Twohey’s story, and that of eighty-five Weinstein accusers, is ground-breaking. It is important. It needs to be shared. She Said successfully does.
It is an anxious, engrossing, edge-of-your-seat film. Will someone go on the record to validate almost thirty years of accusations? Despite knowing the answer, we willingly wait, with bated breath, for over two hours to find out.
Movie Review By Anita Kertes