November 18, 2022 / Universal Pictures Canada
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Zoe Kazan, Patricia Clarkson, Jennifer Ehle, Samantha Morton
Directed By: Maria Schrader
New York Times reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor break one of the most important stories in a generation - a story that helped ignite a movement and shattered decades of silence around the subject of sexual assault in Hollywood.
Written By Darren
Rating 4 out of 5
She Said tackles the atrocities committed by Harvey Weinstein head on in this biographical drama anchored by a strong ensemble cast and a screenplay that maintains the journalistic integrity of the investigation.
When Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey and Rebecca Corbett released their investigation into Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct and abuse towards women in Hollywood and the systemic coverup, it changed the world. While it was a very well known fact in Hollywood, the article shocked readers around the world and helped launch the Me Too movement. And it was only a matter of time before the story was brought to the big screen, and the end product does a great job bringing the journalistic investigation to life while maintaining the stories of those abused by Weinstein. Chronicling the approximately year long investigation in a two hour film, we follow Kantor, Twohey and Corbett on their search for answers about Weinstein’s wrongdoing as they seek out his victims to hear their story to prepare their article, while Weinstein’s army of protectors and lawyers try to derail their investigation at every turn.
Given that the real life story has lots of big names involved, it’s impossible for the film not to name drop. The name dropping begins the film and the investigation, as we are reminded of stars like Rose McGowan, Gwyneth Paltrow and Ashley Judd who were victims of Weinstein’s attacks, or Lisa Bloom, daughter of Gloria Allred, who advised and helped protect Weinstein. While some of the name dropping is of little effect in the first act as it seems like the screenplay does this to remind you of the stars involved rather than using those stars’ individual accounts later on in the film, some of it is to great effect. The constant references to Bloom and her ultimate appearance in the film will make your stomach turn as you watch the daughter of an infamous female lawyer revered for her work in women’s rights, protect one of the most disgusting and powerful men in Hollywood. Though, it is the use of Judd’s story that works best, as the actress appears as herself and shares her story, which plays into a pivotal moment in the final act of the film.
But once the film gets past the name dropping in the first act as Kantor and Twohey begin to track down the various assistants who were abused by Weinstein, the film finds its footing. You get to hear their encounters first hand as Kantor interviews them, and it is an emotional experience as the horrors of their encounters are recounted. Watching Kantor and Twohey work and uncover the story is great, while the film avoids putting their personal lives into jeopardy as they are constantly working, instead showing their husbands happily looking after their children and being supportive while these two women make journalistic history. It’s a nice change from most films which would play up the effect the investigation has on their personal lives as they are women.
However, as the film enters the final act as the article is being written and getting ready to be published, it slightly stumbles. It’s very factual to how the story plays out, but it misses the urgency in what they are doing and how they have to publish before Weinstein has a chance to discredit them. The lack of any of the women wanting to go on the record is forgotten, so when Judd finally agrees to go on the record, while you are sighing in relief, you are not feeling the monumental impact her agreement to go on the record had on the article. The screenplay tries not to over dramatize the events, which I appreciate when it is dealing with the acts committed by Weinstein as it feels honest and respectful to these women, but at the same time it forgot to dramatize the writing and publishing aspect of the story to make all the emotions of the third act hit as hard as they should. It’s hard because it has not even been a decade since Spotlight was released, which is without a doubt one of the greatest films about investigative journalism ever made, but you can’t help but draw comparisons between the two while watching this film.
There is no denying that Maria Schrader’s direction is the driving force of the film, keeping tensions high as we get closer and closer to the article being published, but it is the cast that was the standout of the film for me. Led by Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan as Twohey and Kantor, the two of them are an excellent pair to lead the film. There is a bond between them that creates not only a working relationship, but a relationship of trust and friendship between their characters, while balancing out their personalities. Kazan stars as the more compassionate Kantor who handles herself perfectly as she interviews the women abused by Weinstein, creating a safe space within each scene for these women’s stories to be told. Mulligan is the opposite, bringing this tough as nails reporter to life who squares off against Weinstein himself and his army of protectors, never for a second wavering in her determination to expose Weinstein and giving a fierce and commanding performance that captivates you for the entire film.
Though, it is the performances by Samantha Morton, Jennifer Ehle, Angela Yeoh and Ashley Judd as Weinstein’s victims that are the most memorable of the film. Each of them has a limited amount of screentime, but in a mere matter of minutes, they find a raw vulnerability within their characters as they recount their harrowing encounter with the monster, who for some of them changed their lives forever. Their performances cut you like a knife, especially Morton who delivers the most powerful scene of the film as Zelda Perkins, who is dead set on risking her life to violate her non-disclosure agreement to see Weinstein pay for what he has done to so many women. While Morton, Mulligan and Kazan are all worthy of awards recognition for their terrific performances, it will be interesting to see if any of them break into the awards race this year given how competitive it is so far with so many brilliant performances being given this year.
And last but not least, Nicholas Brittel’s musical score is excellent, capturing the tension and emotion of the story at every turn. Featuring an excellent featured cello performance by Caitlin Sullivan, the musical score is a driving force throughout the the film capturing not only the urgency and danger as Twohey and Kantor investigate and get closer and closer for exposing Weinstein for his true nature, but also capturing the emotional rawness of the trauma that Weinstein’s actions caused on so many women.
There is no doubt in my mind that She Said will be among the nominations for Best Picture at the Oscars this year, because it is a truly exceptional piece of filmmaking touching on the biggest story in Hollywood in the past decade. It’s an important piece of storytelling, highlighting the valiant efforts of the women behind this story to expose the truth and hold what was once a revered man in the film industry accountable for the crimes committed by him. Despite the tough subject matter the film covers, I have no doubt in my mind that it will be a crowd pleasing hit this winter. Even with the minor setbacks in the screenplay that prevent the film from being one of my favourite films of the year, She Said is a powerful film with equally impressive performances from Carey Mulligan, Zoe Kazan and Samantha Morton that exposes the systemic problem that was prevalent in Hollywood to protect a true monster with honesty and respect that never compromises the importance of this landmark piece of journalism.