Maria Schrader’s She Said goes behind the scenes of how The New York Times journalists led the charge in bringing down Harvey Weinstein. One of the most successful film producers of all time, he was also a sexual predator who used his wealth, privilege and power to destroy the lives of countless women.
Journalists Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) and Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) are investigating cases of sexual harassment. One day, their editor Rebecca Corbett (Patricia Clarkson) asks them to turn their attention to Hollywood. Soon enough, they hear rumblings about a major film producer well-known for crossing the line. What they uncover is infinitely more shocking, disturbing and beyond grim.
She Said is solid across the board, quietly seething rather than ‘all men are bastards’ angry, and matter-of-fact in its detailing of the case. The narrative involves two journalists and young mothers traipsing around the world seeking out very reluctant women to help bring down this piece of human garbage. They are scared because Weinstein is a multi-millionaire with an army of top lawyers. They are forgotten people who realise if they act as a unit, with The New York Times’ support, they have more strength and power than they recognise, and that the tyrant can be felled. That’s its simple but worthy message: courage and solidarity can defeat the monster.
Of the supporting cast, it’s cameos by Samantha Morton (playing a former intern) and Ashley Judd (who rebuffed Weinstein in the 1990s and had her career wrecked) who provide some powerful jolts and sickening details. These women had different lives, different temperaments, different struggles, different personalities, but Morton’s Zelda Perkins is especially heroic in that she stood up to Weinstein and left her job to do something else. Judd – playing herself – meanwhile, uses her couple of scenes for what feels like a form of exorcism, as a way to reclaim her soul and a career the producer peevishly derailed.
She Said involves countless scenes of people talking on phones, talking into speaker phones around office tables, or simply listening empathetically. The actors get their big moments to say things about inequality and an industry which for well-over a century got away with casting couch exploitation. It’s all tasteful and non-sensationalist in approach. However, some will mistake an important topic for great filmmaking. Schrader’s film relies more on the former than displaying the latter.
Martyn Conterio | @martynconterio