There is no denying that She Said is a film of huge relevance and importance. Based on the 2019 book of the same name, director Maria Schrader’s compelling drama explores Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) and Megan Twohey’s (Carey Mulligan) Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times investigation exposing disgraced former film producer Harvey Weinstein and his thirty-year history of rape, sexual abuse and sexual misconduct against women in Hollywood.
Their articles detailing the allegations were something of a watershed moment and helped to shatter the silence around sexual abuse within the film industry. Kantor and Twohey’s tireless perseverance, along with the courage of those women who spoke out against him, was to be the catalyst that ignited the #MeToo social movement, encouraging millions around the world to detail their own harrowing experiences of abuse and harassment and helping to spark allegations against many other powerful, high-profile male figures across the US and globally.
Given the significance of the investigation then, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly why She Said has struggled so much commercially. The film grossed just under $14 million worldwide against a budget of $32 million and was considered a box office flop, but why? This is a film that deserves to be seen. For those who perhaps aren’t fully aware of the allegations, the extent of the abuse, or what the investigation entailed, it is essential viewing.
Screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz does an excellent job in condensing the behind-the-scenes details of Kantor and Twohey’s source book, and the film offers a fairly broad, high-level overview of the investigation and the impact it has on those involved.
We get a good flavour of the work involved, the processes, the exploratory phone calls, the relentless chasing of leads and sources, the middle-of-the-night revelations. We learn of their home-lives, their partners, their children, their own personal struggles. We discover the sacrifices Kantor and Twohey make and the risks their investigation puts on their families. They are tired, hard-working mothers and wives. It all feels very real.
She Said feels notably less glossy and less ‘Hollywood’ than the likes of Spotlight, The Post, and All The President’s Men – perhaps the quintessential film about investigative journalism – and we never see the shadowy conspiracies, the all-consuming intensity and smoke-filled newsrooms depicted in those previous films. Instead, the film takes a more measured and sympathetic approach. There’s a delicacy to it, a sensitivity, and the performances from Kazan and Mulligan are wonderfully authentic. However, the emotions feel raw, the testimonies are harrowing, and the depth of Weinstein’s systematic abuse and his subsequent cover-ups are sickening to hear. Schrader’s film is very much to the point, without the need for added gloss and padding.
A fine supporting cast including Patricia Clarkson, Jennifer Ehle, Samantha Morton, and Andre Braugher help give further weight to this powerful film.
If you are a fan of journalism films, then there is a lot to admire here. It is a quite remarkable true story of courage, corruption, empowerment, and the continued importance of high quality journalism in the modern age.