Directed by Maria Schrader, with a sharp and sensitive screenplay by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, She Said, starring Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan, is a brilliant film that honors the real-life journalists who first exposed the allegations against producer Harvey Weinstein. On the one hand, She Said isn’t innovative or ground-breaking as a film, considering it follows the footsteps of predecessors like All The President’s Men and even the newer 2016 Oscar’s Best Picture winner, Spotlight. On the other hand, there’s no denying that the story is intimately poignant in a way that makes it particularly powerful.
The story behind She Said isn’t a surprise to anyone walking into the film, but the emotions it evokes stick a potent landing in many of our psyches. Mulligan and Kazan play New York Times journalists Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor with such tasteful empathy that if everything else didn’t work out in the film (which it does), the performances would make every moment worth it. The thing about Harvey Weinstein is that whether you’re working in the industry or a mere casual fan, you’ve at least heard whispers about the atrocities. The world knows what men like him do behind closed doors, and they have been, for a long, long time, trying to protect him from the inside for reasons that will forever be damaging to women and minority groups.
Why didn’t they just go to the police?
Why did they take the settlements?
Why won’t they speak up?
For so long, the world ignorantly asked these questions and will likely continue to. When women are victims of sexual assault or harassment of any kind, they have to put up the fight of their lives to ensure that at least one person believes in them. It’s all for attention, some will say. Except it’s not and She Said does everything in its power as a film to document the emotions that consistently arise in cases like this. While the allegations against Weinstein aren’t shocking, the power and his ability to shut them down time and time again evoked a sense of fear that’s both vile and deeply haunting to think about. It’s unimaginable in every way, and the film ensures that viewers feel the harrowing emotions instead of telling them what to think. This movie isn’t about Weinstein or Miramax; it’s about the women.
Everyone working at the New York Times during the investigation, including powerhouses like Rebecca Corbett (Patricia Clarkson), and Dean Baquet (Andre Braugher), alongside Twohey and Kantor, weren’t just selling a story but sincerely wanting to put an end to the one man’s unearned, horrific power. The authenticity of the true story is the entire reason the film works to showcase what it looks like when women’s voices are silenced.
Women lead the film, while the narrative and directing effortlessly exhibit what it means to rob women of their agency and the ability to use their voices loudly. As the investigation progresses, voices grow louder and more potent, allowing even the most intimate confessions like Laura Madden’s (Jennifer Ehle) to feel like the most mighty exclamation.
As a film that anchors the truth to journalism, the empathy both Twohey and Kantor carry within themselves shines a light on the crux of authentic, worthwhile reporting. This investigation was never about clickbait or breaking the story first; it was about unmasking and silencing the abusers while the women whose lives they terrorized came forward. Plus, the directorial decision never to show Weinstein’s face was a fantastic choice as it allowed filmgoers without critical knowledge of his violations to see and hear the women mostly.
By the end, it’s easy to understand how benevolent and hard work prompted the avalanche of confessions in the #MeToo movement. It’s also critical to acknowledge Ashley Judd’s performance as herself while the film showcases her protests against Trump’s oppressive leadership to her statement at the end, where she states that “as a woman and a Christian,” speaking up is the right thing to do. As a journalist who’s also both a woman and a Christian, Judd’s words struck my core, allowing me to exit the film feeling tremendously grateful for the people who continue to fight against abuse, harassment, mistreatment, and oppression of any kind.
She Said is a brutally vulnerable film with women front and center as it reveals the importance of persistence, resistance, and the true meaning of steadfastly using one’s voice for divulgences that will change the world for the better.
This is a much needed movie, but I found it to be really slow.