She Said, a tense and compelling drama, initially appears to be in the vein of meticulous newspaper procedurals like All the President's Men and Spotlight. Similar to those earlier films, it gives journalists a bad rap by not only pairing them with well-known actors but also by highlighting how challenging, thankless, and tiresome their labour can be as they attempt to break that enormous, historic story.
But She Said can't help but play differently because this is a story about Harvey Weinstein. Seeing a film about a film producer's fall from power come from the very industry he previously commanded is both moving and slightly unsettling. The most hauntingly moving aspect of the film is Ashley Judd's portrayal of herself, who struggles with the decision of whether to tell the world that she had turned down Weinstein's advances in a hotel room. Before the #MeToo movement brought prominent male abusers to justice, women felt terror and anxiety that the director Maria Schrader and screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz skillfully recreate.
In 2016, when the film begins, Carey Mulligan's character Megan Twohey, an investigative writer for the New York Times, has just published an article regarding fresh allegations of sexual assault against Donald Trump, the then-presidential candidate. She joins forces with another journalist, Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan), who has heard charges of sexual harassment, assault, and rape against Weinstein. When Twohey informs Kantor of what she has discovered, Kantor remarks, "If it can happen to Hollywood stars, who else is it happening to?"
That is a good question, especially in light of the fact that celebrities who have previously collaborated with Weinstein, including Rose McGowan and Gwyneth Paltrow, are reluctant to make an official statement. Twohey and Kantor make the decision to concentrate on the numerous women who have worked for Miramax, owned by Weinstein. They divided up the homework and tenaciously attacked the story from all directions. They gradually unearth a wide network of enablers who helped Weinstein not only perpetrate his crimes but also keep them hidden through settlements and non-disclosure agreements with the help of their editor Rebecca Corbett, played to perfection by Patricia Clarkson.
The actors portraying the reporters and the reporters themselves work well together. Mulligan portrays Twohey as the more steely of the two; there is a funny scene when she chooses to lead an interview since she is taller and supposedly more scary. Kazan highlights Kantor's ability to empathise, gain people's trust, and elicit knowledge from even the most resistant sources. She Said delights in subverting the typical Hollywood pattern of the manly workaholic and his devoted, patient wife: Here, Kantor and Twohey are the ones holding down the fort and taking care of the kids while their husbands work furiously at all hours.
That relationship has some significance, especially considering how many of Weinstein's former aides were young women whose lucrative film careers were abruptly ended. Zelda Perkins, who rivetingly recounts an episode in the 1990s when she spoke out against Weinstein for harassing a colleague, is portrayed by Samantha Morton in a superb performance. And Jennifer Ehle gives a subtly sad performance as Laura Madden, another ex-employee who finds the strength to end her two-decade silence.
In a few sequences where he attempts to exert pressure on Dean Baquet, who is played by an unflappable Andre Braugher, the Times' executive editor, Weinstein himself is only briefly seen from behind. As Kantor and Twohey rush to publish their story, the film maintains its strict focus and discipline, even after they become aware that Ronan Farrow's second investigation into Harvey Weinstein is going to break in The New Yorker. However, the Times reporters are equally adamant about getting the story right and making sure they have a strong case.
I ate up every aspect of the drama inside the Times building because I enjoy watching movies about journalism, despite the fact that I was seeing a more streamlined and polished version of what actually happened. She Said's conclusion has a certain neatness and anticlimax, especially considering that it leaves the fallout from Kantor and Twohey's reporting off-screen. At the same time, it's appropriate that the film ends before we can fully appreciate the effects of the #MeToo movement, which journalists helped spread throughout every industry and the entire world. That is a far greater story that is still being written five years later.