“She Said,” a new film about the New York Times reporters Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) and Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) and their Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation of the sexual misconduct perpetrated by Harvey Weinstein, breathes the same air as other newsroom procedurals like “The Post” and “Spotlight.”
Based on the 2019 book by Twohey and Kantor, the movie begins with Twohey’s investigations into sexual assault allegations against presidential candidate Donald Trump and FOX TV commentator Bill O’Reilly. The success of those stories, which cost O’Reilly his lucrative television gig, led to a further investigation of abuse and institutional misogyny in the film business, specifically involving film producer Weinstein.
Working in tandem with Kantor, Twohey begins sorting through sexual abuse claims from Hollywood actresses like Rose McGowan (voice of Kelly McQuail) and Ashley Judd (as herself).
“If that can happen to Hollywood actresses,” Twohey says, “who else is it happening to?”
“She Said” follows their month’s long investigation, from the unwillingness of victims to go on the record for fear of repercussions and legal maneuvering to death threats and harassment.
“You have to imagine that every call you make is being recorded and you’re being followed,” warns New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet (Andre Braugher).
The story behind the story that rocked Hollywood is a boots-on-the-ground journalism movie. Director Maria Schrader and screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz walk us through the uncovering of information, the dead-ends, the back-and-forth with reluctant sources in a slow-and-steady fashion. It’s a detailed portrait of the daily grind journalists go through to ensure accuracy and fairness.
Unfortunately, because this #MeToo story lived at the very center of popular discourse at the time and beyond, “She Said’s” efforts to document the making of the story contain very few surprises.
On an emotional level, however, the recollections of Weinstein’s victims, former assistant Zelda Perkins (Samantha Morton) and Rowena Chiu (Angela Yeoh), are as devastating as former Weinstein Co. Board Member Lance Maerov’s (Sean Cullen) comment—”Are you sure that this isn’t just young women who want to sleep with a movie producer to get ahead?” is maddening.
Schrader never sensationalizes “She Said,” but her retelling of the victimization of the powerless and Weinstein’s criminal behaviour is buoyed by some interesting choices, including using real audio of model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez and Weinstein as he tries to coerce her into joining him in his hotel suite. As the camera floats down a fancy hotel hallway, Schrader allows the tape to play to skin crawling effect. It is that level of detail and raw storytelling that captures the true horror of the case against Weinstein.