She Said follows a pair of New York Times investigative reporters as they research and report on the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
The Harvey Weinstein scandal had a domino effect in Hollywood as it was the biggest story of its day. After he was exposed, many survivors had the bravery to speak their truth. Myself included, albeit around the subject of transphobic abuse. You can call this the Spotlight of Hollywood-adjacent newspaper films but it’s so important. There are still people coming out about previous incidents to this date because of people who enabled their abusers. And to think, it might not happen without the brave reporting of Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) and Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) on October 5, 2017. Their 3,321-word story was researched with the greatest amount of care and was on page 1 of The New York Times and all over the news, not just entertainment media: “Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades.” The rest is history.
Working with Jodi and Megan are then-assistant managing editor Rebecca Corbett (Patricia Clarkson) and then- executive editor Dean Baquet (Andre Braugher). Former Miramax employees Laura Madden (Jennifer Ehle) and Zelda Perkins (Samantha Morton) are among those that Kantor and Twohey visit. Ashley Judd portrays herself. It’s one thing to just publish a story–anyone can do that. What this film shows is the work that went into publishing that story. If you know anything about Harvey Weinstein, it’s not without intimidation tactics. If he thought he could just talk his way into killing a piece while on the phone with Dean, he would be badly mistaken.
Journalism covers a wide array of subjects but investigative journalism puts stories in our eyes that we might not see. In this instance, a pair of reporters and editors get wind of a potential Harvey Weinstein story and decide to investigate it. Can they publish anything if nobody is willing to go on the record? That’s the thing about an executive like Weinstein. He’s so powerful that he can force people into not talking! It’s up to both Jodi and Megan to reach out to the survivors and get them to open up. Even if they don’t speak on the record, they would surely know other people who might. Or, perhaps, they might know someone that could hand over important evidence. Nevertheless, Jodi and Megan persevered and were able to publish a piece with a number of survivors deciding to go on the record, including Ashley Judd.
There are no rape scenes on camera. A rape or assault might be described but only through the words of a survivor. We never see Harvey Weinstein’s face at any point in the film. If he’s on camera, we only see the actor playing him from behind. At times, the film plays like a documentary with archival audio while the camera pans down an empty highway. This film draws influence from All The Presidents’ Men in how they frame certain shots. The effect on the audience could not be more powerful because it works for the film. What surprises me is that the film just ends with the climax. I mean, it’s an ongoing story with a trial taking place right now in LA. It’s a different choice, maybe not the one I’d make but it works.
Both Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan deliver some of the finest performances of the year. One or the other are on screen almost every minute of the film. And again, they are honoring the journalists who spent several months researching before they published just over five years ago in October.
Nicholas Britell delivers another top-notch film score. This time around, he is joined by his wife, Caitlin Sullivan, who performs the cello solos. Her solos are among the standouts of the score. There are motifs recurring throughout the film for both journalists. Britell also pens themes for the investigation as well when they’re researching.
One silver lining of the pandemic is that the filmmakers were able to shoot in The New York Times building. Much like tick, tick…BOOM!, they were able to film this story where it took place. Because of lighting, however, they use the Culture area of the Times to recreate the Investigative Journalism offices. The decision to shoot there, only increases the film’s authenticity. What they could not do on location was recreated on a soundstage, mainly the conference rooms and hallway. Most films do not really get this opportunity but again, it’s not often we’re battling a hundred-year pandemic.
I would be remiss if I did not say something about Brad Pitt executive producing the film. This isn’t because of things he probably knew about in the 1990s. No, it’s because of the recent FBI report obtained in August 2022 by NBC News about a plane incident involving both Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and their children. While Pitt’s name might cause some people to not see this film, please don’t let it distract from the brave and courageous women who came forward to speak out against Harvey Weinstein.
Speaking as a survivor of transphobic abuse in the industry, She Said is one of the most powerful films of the year. It is not as much about Harvey Weinstein as it is the journalists and women who raised their voice with bravery and courage. If not for the reporting coming out in late 2017, I would not have had the courage to publicly speak out. That speaks to the power of this film.
DIRECTOR: Maria Schrader
SCREENWRITER: Rebecca Lenkiewicz
CAST: Carey Mulligan, Zoe Kazan, Patricia Clarkson, Andre Braugher, Jennifer Ehle, with Samantha Morton and Ashley Judd
She Said screened during the 2022 Chicago International Film Festival in the Spotlight and Women in Cinema programs. Universal will release She Said in theaters on November 18, 2022. Grade: 4.5/5
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