Investigative reporters have the ability to move mountains, overthrow governments, uncover dark secrets and bring empires to their knees only to be the cause and effect of a necessary change for the benefit of generations to come. The work is groundbreaking, shining a light on scandals that at the thought of any wrong-doing sounds absurd but when the truth and those brave enough to share their stories on the record come out, what is done is on par with the worst humanity has to offer. Several dramatizations have been done before, setting an example of how to structure something as menial as asking questions and chasing down leads in a pulse pounding manner, creating a niche sub-genre ripe with stories to tell of bravery and inspiration amidst a tragic beginning.
In 2017, a massive, decade spanning scandal would shake the foundation of the film industry only to lead the way for one of the biggest movements to protect women and lift their individual voices into one, the #MeToo movement. Based on the New York Times article and the novelization of the same name She Said brings to light what was only whispered about and overlooked and follows the systemic abuse that Harvey Weinstein, a one-time powerful film producer and head of Miramax Pictures had over employees, actresses, and professionals in the industry.
Breaking the story open is Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) and Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) who do what investigators do best, ask questions, follow the breadcrumbs and write a story that will benefit generations to come so younger women won’t face the same grim reality if abuse in the workplace or anywhere occurs. What Megan and Jodi uncover is truly disturbing and screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz doesn’t hold back on the detailed accounts of what these women experienced at an early stage in their careers.
Standing on the shoulders of Spotlight and All The President’s Men, She Said builds tension from the looming invisible threat that creates a suffocating atmosphere. Weinstein (Mike Houston) is mentioned by name only, to the benefit of the story, but his presence is felt throughout – tightening a grip on the small ensemble cast but losing some of that power as the truth unravels.
There comes a point during the peak of the investigation when executive editor of the New York Times Dean Baquet (Andre Braugher) warns Jodi and Megan that the two should assume their conversations are being listened to and they are being followed wherever they go. The only people Jodi and Megan can trust are each other along with Rebecca Corbett (Patricia Clarkson). Investigative journalism is dramatized like poking a bear, do it one too many times and the bear becomes vicious and unpredictable, but the bear will also make mistakes in their aggression.
Subtly, the pairing of the 3 women together foreshadows the number of women that initially go on the record against Weinstein that snowballs into 82 women total coming forward against the systemic abuse, NDA’s and settlements.
Directed by Maria Schrader, She Said stops at nothing to get the truth out of what happened from the abuse to the cover up and subsequent settlements that were paid out in exchange for silence. Coming in at 129 minutes, Lenkiewicz’s script moves at a New York minute. Amidst the frenzy of finding these women like Ashley Judd (Herself) or Laura Madden (Jennifer Ehle) to be brave enough to speak out, breaks in the action are given to digest the truth of what has been done. It’s more than just the abuser, it’s those who aid in the cover up and look the other way out of fear of the same repercussions. The same way that it was bigger than the president who covered up Watergate or the higher ups in the catholic church covering up abuse, it’s those who stay silent that can do the most damage continuously after the fact.
Playing the real-life counterparts who brought an end to decades of abuse, Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan are front and center, taking control of the film. Both women sticking together is what She Said is fundamentally about. Strength in numbers, the more women who agree to go on the record, the better it is for the survivors to get the justice they deserve. And as Kantor and Twohey, Mulligan and Kazan have a synced chemistry of a dynamic duo.
I keep going back to All the President’s Men, Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman had the same energy brought to their roles that Mulligan and Kazan have. The two actresses are the anchor for this film, carrying the burden of exposing the atrocities after grueling interviews and dead ends that can’t be used without permission. After Promising Young Woman, Mulligan has the patience of a journalist with a hidden ferocity when the answers she hopes for aren’t being given.
October 5, 2017, changed the world. It’s both the publication date of the article in the New York Times and also serves as the blossoming beginning of the rapidly growing MeToo movement. A movement that weeds out the abusers, the intimate circles of the film industry that no one is brave enough to face head on and most importantly it’s a movement that protects those who have been abused.
She Said can be summed up by one line of dialogue, said by Megan to Jodi as a tool to convince women to speak out “You know, I can’t change what happened to you in the past, but together, we may be able to use your experience to help protect other people.” With a score by Nicholas Britell that adds a heightened sense of claustrophobia, She Said triumphs in its storytelling approach. Alone, one person cannot change a system that protects the abuser, especially when the abuser has power in numbers but together, real change can occur – along with a mountain of evidence. Despite the unrelenting traumatic experiences these women faced, there’s beauty behind the horrifying truth – real tangible change is possible, you just have to be brave enough to take the next step.
Screenplay By: Rebecca Lenkiewicz
Directed By: Maria Schrader
Music By: Nicholas Britell
Cinematography: Natasha Braier
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Zoe Kazan, Patricia Clarkson, Andre Braugher, Jennifer Ehle, Samantha Morton, Ashley Judd, Zach Grenier, Peter Friedman
Release Date: November 18, 2022
Running Time: 2 Hours 9 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
Based On: The New York Times Investigation & She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey