’She Said’ Tells the Emotional Journey Behind Harvey Weinstein’s Journalistic Investigation – Review
Harvey Weinstein is back in theaters, but not for the usual reason. Director Maria Schrader and screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz teamed up to tell the story of how New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) and Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) shocked the world in 2017 with an explosive article breaking down Weinstein’s history of misconduct and sexual assault against aspiring actresses in Hollywood. This is She Said, one of the best movies of the year so far.
Pulling off this movie was no easy task. Perhaps it wasn’t as big of a challenge as what its two lead characters face in it, but She Said definitely had a lot of factors going against it. Two movies come to mind in recent memory that had some similarities to it, 2015’s Best Picture winner Spotlight, and 2019’s Bombshell. I am a huge fan of both movies, but there’s no denying that while the former was loved by critics, audiences, and the Academy alike, the latter failed to win over any of them. The narrative around She Said thus became “Will it be the new Spotlight or another Bombshell?” Both questions are ultimately unfair and add even more baggage to the movie, which already has the big challenge of getting made in a post-Weinstein Hollywood that is still looking for the people responsible for decades-long enabling.
To answer the question, I would say neither. The movie I thought She Said most resembled is actually the grand-daddy of journalist movies, Alan J. Pakula’s All the President’s Men. Both in the structure of the script, the settings, and the overall plot throughline, there were many similarities between both movies. And to a degree, it is completely understandable, as there are actually a lot of similarities between both stories. Much like the 1976 modern classic, She Said requires some historical context at the beginning. We open with Carey Mulligan’s Megan Twohey, the New York Times reporter that exposed Donald Trump’s sexual harassment allegations back in May 2016, right before the election.
It is essential for the viewer to understand that we are inside Trump’s term as much as it is important to realize the lengths to which someone’s supporters are willing to go to defend them. And it doesn’t only involve not believing a new story, as Mulligan’s Megan Twohey quickly realizes. She Said doesn’t intend to be a political movie, but certain subject matters and the groups rallying behind them are impossible to separate. Trump’s subplot doesn’t take more than 20 minutes, but it also serves as a litmus test to the audience. If you side with the people threatening and harassing our protagonist here, this is probably not the movie for you. Trump even has a small role in the movie, though he’s played by a voice impressionist over the phone, and the audience I saw this movie with back in October during the BFI London Film Festival could not resist laughing out loud during it. It wasn’t meant to be funny.
From there, we quickly get into the main plot. Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) gets a tip about some horrible malpractices taking place inside hotel rooms involving high-profile Hollywood executives over at L.A. As she starts going down the rabbit hole, she realizes she may need help from Twohey, who faced a similar story trying to take down untouchable people a few months earlier. There is no shortage of people to talk to that may be in the know. The problem, though, is that nobody is talking back to them. The film’s main obstacle is finding someone who may be willing to speak out, but that turns out more challenging than expected, as they have all moved on from any past that may have involved Weinstein and have no desire of revisiting it.
The bait? Anything they say publicly will protect young girls from getting invited into hotel rooms by men in their bathrobes, or asked to watch them shower, or even worse. It is a human story as much as it is a journalistic one, as both reporters quickly become deeply invested in it, as well as the victims. Some are willing to talk, but do not want their names on the story. But that’s not good enough, as Megan and Jodi need names and faces pointing to the evil man behind the curtain. It is, of course, no spoiler to say that they end up getting approval to use the names of Ashley Judd and Lauren O’Connor, among others, something that happens in one of the most cathartic and emotional moments of any movie this year.
The performances are excellent across the board, and while it will definitely be Carey Mulligan who gets a Best Supporting Actress nomination (after Universal decided to submit both her and Zoe Kazan in that category, hoping for a better chance at earning at least one spot), the one I gravitated to the most was Kazan. This is her story through and through, and while Mulligan gets some fierce moments, Kazan was given some of the heavyweights in terms of emotion, and she knocked it out of the park. Another big highlight of the film is Nicholas Britell’s sweeping score, which never takes over the narrative, but rather works great with the editing to give the movie a sense of easy flow.
I personally responded really well to the movie because it checked two boxes I personally really enjoy — journalistic movies and films about Hollywood. However, audiences going in should also be realistic about what this movie is and what it is trying to accomplish. This is not a character study of the two lead characters, with a deep introspective into their lives and a big, emotional arc for them. And nor should it be. She Said is focused on the plot rather than the characters, and that’s by design, and why it works so well. The story is telling is more important than the people telling it. We are cheering for the two main characters because of the likeability of the actresses and because of what they represent.
I saw this film during the London Film Festival, and I personally cannot wait to see it again. I would definitely vote for it as a Best Picture contender but I wasn’t sure if the critics and awards pundits would be of the same opinion. One month later, it seems like the movie is getting strong buzz and could indeed land several nominations.
She Said is now in theaters in North America, and will expand into international territories in the coming months.
Miguel Fernández is a Spanish student that has movies as his second passion in life. His favorite movie of all time is The Lord of the Rings, but he is also a huge Star Wars fan. However, fantasy movies are not his only cup of tea, as authors like Scorsese, Fincher, Kubrick or Hitchcock have been an obsession for him since he started to understand the language of filmmaking. He is that guy who will watch a black and white movie, just because it is in black and white.