It’s hard to believe it was exactly five years (October 5, 2017) since The New York Times published the expose, “Harvey Weinstein: Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades, creating the ongoing #MeToo Movement. When this broke, I was in college when possibly one of the biggest bombshells in the Hollywood industry as alt how the former, successful producer was this disgusting excuse of a human for this long. And some might think a drama like She Said is being released too early since t could be sensitive. That might be true, but what’s better than exposing the truth from director Maria Schrader (I’m Your Man, Unorthodox) showing the power of hard-hitting investigation?
Based on the 2019 book of the same name, reporters Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) and Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan), who together broke one of the most important stories in a generation–a story that helped propel the #Metoo movement, shattered decades of silence around the subject of sexual assault in Hollywood and altered American culture forever.
Getting She Said for the Heartland International Film Festival at the last minute a month ago boasted some confidence, considering our screening was the day after its New York Film Festival Premiere. We’re no strangers to getting many intrigues of dramatized films focusing on real-life scandals. Just in the past, we had Spotlight, The Post, and even Bombshell providing us with true stories around an investigation we could b believe truly happened. Who knows what I’d feel about this since the trailer made it out to be a possible awards contender or a dry retelling with an evoking message. After it was over, this was the only film at the festival I had to think more about just to get my thoughts straight. By the end, this might not be the film I’ll love more than others by the time it comes out, but it’s a flawed yet solid drama.
We are getting a story the world already knows about, but it’s the entire investigation of what everything came to one piece that makes it more interesting to make the workplace environment better. This is hard-hitting journalism to its fullest, where you see Megan and Jodi putting in the work to get the answers they need, no matter the cost. And their work paid off big time when they were rewarded with the Pulitzer Prize, shared with New Yorker reporter Ronan Farrow. And this was back when the women who used to be associated with the man had to keep it a secret to protect themselves. So it’s a pretty straightforward action where Twohey and Kantor talk to different victims who’s been involved with Weinstein to where it can be enough evidence to make people believe what thousands upon thousands of women have been holding in for years.
The first half is more substantial than what goes on later despite starting a bit sloppy when introducing the characters and some editing choices I wasn’t a fan of, especially the opening when Ireland 1992, cutting to 2016 to early 2017. Everything after leveled out to drag itself out in the last 30 minutes when you’re waiting for the plot to reach its race against the clock time we’ve been waiting to culminate with a hard-hitting ending. But I didn’t realize it kicked off right when commentator Bill O Reilly’s allegations sparked conversations and the 2016 Presidential election, as the reporters find more accounts of sexual harassment that we aren’t aware of.
With Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan in the two committed leads, fans of these actresses won’t be disappointed with their performances as Megan and Jodi, respectively, balancing their home lives as mothers and work. I wouldn’t say these are their greatest performances or good enough to give them Oscar nominations on the basis you don’t know that much about them personally. For some reason, they ditched Mulligan’s postpartum depression. They’ve been better in other stuff, but you’ll never complain when they carry an excellent dynamic working together. It’s strange how both of them aren’t being campaigned for lead Actress since I believe they share the same amount of screen time. Instead, they’ve put Mulligan in Supporting Actress and Kazan in Best Actress.
Patricia Clarkson, who plays editor Rebecca Corbett, and Andre Braugher, who plays no-nonsense chief editor Dean Baquet, both deliver terrific supporting roles. The best moments, though, come from Samantha Morton and Jennifer Ehle. Both of their characters, ex-Miramax employees Zelda Perkins and Laura Madden, respectively, provide scenes detailing their disturbing encounters with Jodi outside the country, including the mention of an uncomfortable message that makes for the most impactful moment of the film. Unfortunately, they don’t have much to work with, though Ehle gets the heaviest material.
You hate a monster like Weinstein lured victims (actresses, assistants, etc.) and kept them quiet after their encounters for so long. This was Hollywood’s biggest secret, and even when actress Rose McGowan explained this to people when she was assaulted in 1997, most brushed it off and got a $100,000 settlement. Surprisingly, he even blackballed Ashley Judd’s career, who appears as herself. As someone who has talked with Harvey before and knows his bullshit, and why should he since his personality is sexual assaults, workplace harassment, and NDAs. Thankfully, we don’t actually see his face when it’s just another actor voicing him over the phone or using a body double from the back.
Nothing about Schrader’s direction or the screenplay by Rebecca Lenkiewicz (Ida, Disobedience) came across as stylish to glamorize these events, and it didn’t need to be. Truthfully, this gives the victims respect She Said solely focused on the journalist aspect, not what went on behind the scenes, which was a smart tactic to ensure. A scene that stuck with me was this chilling moment of hearing a conversation with Harvey and Ambra Gutierrez, but we’re hearing a recording and seeing shots of empty hotel corridors with text underneath.
This is still an issue the world’s dealing with serious consequences about whom to trust, where it’s also padding itself on the back. Since they screened this a month early and there’s no clear consensus about the film, I am curious about what the rest of the reactions will be once it’s released next month. Nothing here is going to be a vast Oscar push (i.e. Best Picture), but I’m gonna predict it’ll be on the same level as The Post and not as powerfully acclaimed as All the President’s Men.
She Said might not reinvent the wheel for investigative dramas. However, it tells its true, straightforward story with a courageous effort to show the lengths reporters have to expose the truth. Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan worked great together. It won’t leave as big of an impact as I wanted and it’ll probably be forgettable for me, but a respectful effort.
She Said will be released on November 18, 2022. Runtime: 129 Minutes. Rated R for language and descriptions of sexual assault. Studio: Universal Pictures.