She Said Movie Review: Harvey Weinstein Gets Arson Movie

NYFF: Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan play Pulitzer Prize winners Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey in Maria Schrader’s poignant real-life story.


When future Pulitzer Prize winners Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey published their first New York Times investigation into Harvey Weinstein’s decades of sexual abuse and harassment in October 2017, journalists had only a handful of accusers willing to go on the record. In the months and years that followed, more than 80 different women accused the Hollywood bigwig (and now convicted and jailed rapist) of a litany of crimes spanning many years. The investigations by Kantor and Twohey (and a simultaneous one by Ronan Farrow for The New Yorker, with whom they shared their Pulitzer) not only set the stage for a reckoning with Weinstein and his crimes, but helped inspire the entire #MeToo movement worldwide to kindle scale. That Weinstein’s downfall was the result of careful reporting, dogged perseverance, and the resilience of a few brave souls must be remembered. In Maria Schrader’s artful and riotous “She Said,” we’re reminded of something else that makes a movie hell: It was women who did it.

It’s darkly ironic, of course, that Weinstein — for so long a Hollywood titan, a bona fide super producer — (again! and good! do it more!) about the kind of awards — y, end — real-life story , which the former Miramax boss probably would have loved to have done back when he was, oh, you know, not in prison for multiple sex crimes. Hit him where it hurts. But it’s also bitterly hilarious that Weinstein’s downfall came at the hands of two women, the kind of stubborn, emotional, stressed-out, and heroic people he’s spent so much of his life and career trying to silence. Dozens of films could be made about what Weinstein did, how Kantor and Twohey brought him down, and how many lives his crimes destroyed, but Schraders would probably still be the best of them all, a definite undertaking from the start.

That’s partly because of Schrader’s stars — Zoe Kazan as Cantor and Carey Mulligan as Twohey, both of whom deliver wonderful performances — and partly because of how much information Schrader and screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz cram into a film that runs for just over two hours. Right before Donald Trump’s election (Twohey first came to the Times to research the then-presidential nominee) and literally ends as the team hits publish in the October 2017 story, “She Said” offers a rugged and trimmed look in the process behind reporting the story. But the film’s greatest strength goes beyond the fast-paced tick-tock aspect of its story, and focuses on something far more difficult to articulate than “it tells us all the important bars of the story.”

“She Said” does that, but it also gives us all the emotions of the story. It starts early, as Schrader takes us down a crowded New York City street that’s packed with people — you know the image, you’ve seen it many times — and instead takes his time to focus on women, many of them , normal women go about their day, making phone calls, going to work, boarding the subway. Women. Everywhere, everywhere, everywhere. This story could be about any of them. It’s mostly about two of them, though, and Schrader and her stars carefully build entire emotional worlds for these on-screen versions of Jodi and Megan.

Both women struggle with work-life balance at the beginning of the film (and you also get the feeling that the moment you say “work-life balance” they would burst out laughing). Megan might appear rather cool, calm, and collected on the outside, but Mulligan — always so good at playing women on the fringes — brings obvious conflict to the role. When “She Said” begins, Megan is pregnant with her first child. She is also trying to conduct an investigation into Trump’s behavior towards women on the eve of this election. You can imagine the stress, but Schrader isn’t asking you to. Instead, we see Megan being verbally abused, threatened, and intimidated by a variety of opponents (including an insanely awkward phone call from Trump himself). An angry Bill O’Reilly flicker calls to yell at her, “ARE YOU A FEMINIST?” while awaiting an early check-up with her doctor. Someone could only do this job if they really, Yes, really believed in it.

Jodi believes in that too, even if she’s stretched thin at every turn. While Kantor and Twohey’s work draws heavily on their partnership from the initial investigation to their book, on which Lenkiewicz’s film is based, Schrader often lets Kazan take the lead. She Said wouldn’t work without Jodi and Megan, without Kazan and Mulligan, but of course the story seems to run towards Jodi more often, and Kazan delivers at every turn. She is tasked with navigating the film’s heaviest lifts, describing it as “cathartic” when she bursts into tears at the most difficult moments, or “rending” when she has to handle the most difficult parts of the reporting (a scene where she accidentally misses the story of a possible source I can think of) decreases. It’s more than that.


“She said”

Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Schrader and her team deftly weave in a variety of narrative ideas to paint a complex picture, from various flashbacks to simply moving through different locations while key audio files are played (one of Weinstein’s accusers visited him the day after he killed her attacked, armed with a wire to record the interaction, and Schrader simply plays the audio as the camera pans through posh hotel corridors). It’s immersive and skillful storytelling that – as always – conveys both information and emotion.

Weinstein’s victims are varied, and while Schrader’s film focuses primarily on some of the lesser-known women he brutalized (many assistants who started their careers with his Miramax, with Samantha Morton portrayed as a particularly outspoken survivor in a single scene who stuns) , “She Said” also weaves in the stories of Weinstein’s more famous victims. Ashley Judd stars as herself. Rose McGowan is just a voice on the phone (voiced by Keilly McQuail). Gwyneth Paltrow is often discussed and only “appears” once, during a terrifying phone call. Likewise, Weinstein is played by actor Mike Houston, who only shows the back of his head (and that’s enough). He screams and drives through various phone calls, all of which are skin crawling.

It’s not all perfect. A few stilted moments in the first act — tons of journalistic slang, some bizarre attributions, and a worrying interest in following journalists as they take absolutely necessary phone calls in the middle of the street — threaten to dilute his power a bit. That fades as Jodi and Megan push for what we know is inevitable, somehow still preparing for the moment when their story finally spills out into the world.

Satisfying? Yes. traumatic? Also yes. Necessary? You know the answer. They already told you.

Grade: A-

She Said premiered at the 2022 New York Film Festival. Universal will hit theaters on Friday, November 18th.

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Lindsay Lowe

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