Full disclosure: I am a sucker for movies where the lead is “crusading.” Journalists, writers and district attorneys. Anyone. It’s even better if the plucky lead fights to take down the entrenched establishment. In She Said, the still very recent “Me Too” movement comes into a hardened Hollywood focus. As the final credits roll, will this movie feel like Spotlight and All the President’s Men? Or will it wilt under pressure?
She Said follows two journalists, Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) and Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan), as they work to expose prevalent sexual harassment in Hollywood and, more specifically, Harvey Weinstein’s crimes. The movie is based on Kantor and Twohey’s book of the same name. Patricia Clarkson, Andre Braugher, Jennifer Ehle and Samantha Morton co-star in the film. Maria Schrader directs She Said from a script by Rebecca Lenkiewicz.
This movie finds the perfect blend of creative talent to craft a fierce and pitch-perfect tone. This is not an easy subject matter. “Crusading journalist” movies can sometimes drag a little. These are challenging stories to tell as we’re not watching something happen. Instead, we’re watching the after-effects. Researching and writing are neither sexy nor is it always action-packed. Trust me.
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However, She Said feels personal and rings incredibly true. This narrative is crafted in a tight, tense way that sits in the pit of the stomach.
This stems from the movie’s direct and distinct focus on its subject’s humanity. These are figures who often fade into the structure during these journalistic procedurals. These interviews come and go, but we sit with the journalists for the whole film. They are the primary source of audience identification.
Instead, Schrader makes the savvy choice to spotlight the interviews in intense detail. Our leads listen to the video and audio recordings in a few cases.
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In one particular instance, the story stops for one of these segments. The film rotates through empty hotel rooms and hallways as we listen to a woman do everything she can to escape an uncomfortable encounter with the now-fallen movie mogul.
In the moment, this isn’t a sexy Hollywood retelling of current events. This is documentary realism. Instead of experiencing the events through the comforting filter of our recognizable leads, we’re in the encounter and all the confusion, emotion and fight or flight along with it.
However, despite creative choices like that mentioned above, the story never lags. This is a shock because writing isn’t exciting. Stories that spotlight this writing and research process take a specific creative choice, and Lenkiewicz’s script nails the tone and pace. She Said is tight, crisp and the realism in this tension sits with you.
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At the same time, this is further developed by the movie’s use of micro-flashbacks. The choice to include these brief segments remind us just who Weinstein preyed on.
All at once, these middle-aged women telling their stories come to life as the women the producer exploited. They were scared 20-something professionals simply trying to jumpstart their careers. These flashbacks might sometimes be a clunky or uncomfortable choice, but they are necessary.
Meanwhile, the film’s choice to take on Twohey and Kantor’s story felt like such a breath of fresh air. Mulligan and particularly Kazan’s portrayals are beautifully realistic and relatable as they come to life onscreen.
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Much love to Woodward and Bernstein, but in a genre which often spotlights men, seeing Twohey struggling with postpartum depression and Kantor burst into happy tears when a source finally goes on the record felt so important.
Kazan and Mulligan present strong, powerful and whip-smart characters in these performances. On top of all that, though, and something which is often lost in the era of post-second-wave feminism, they are real. I saw myself in Kazan’s portrayal of Kantor, and when you see yourself onscreen, you can take on the world. This is a message Hollywood must continue to develop.
The performances throughout She Said are top-notch. Beyond Mulligan and Kazan, Clarkson is characteristically good as editor Rebecca Corbett and Andre Braugher steals scenes as New York Times managing editor Dean Baquet.
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Working together, the New York Times ensemble finds impeccable chemistry. Clarkson, in particular, blends well with Mulligan and Kazan. However, Brauer brings a perfect strength that complements but doesn’t overpower the other performers.
She Said might certainly feel like a standard piece of awards season fair. If you’ve seen Spotlight or All the President’s Men, you know what you’re getting. We remember how this ripped-from-the-headlines contemporary history ends. We’re living it. However, She Said shines an unflinching spotlight on a story that desperately needs to be told. It’s powerful, unyielding and helps to shine a light on the many stories overshadowed in Harvey Weinstein’s headlines.
She Said opens in theaters around the country on November 18, 2022.
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