‘She Said’ movie review: An imperative account of Weinstein’s abuse that gives his victims the time to speak

True to its title, ‘She Said’ is an act in listening that crafts a journalistic thriller into Harvey Weinstein’s predatory behaviour

Updated - November 19, 2022 04:57 pm IST

Published - November 19, 2022 04:56 pm IST

Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan in ‘She Said’

Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan in ‘She Said’

Five years ago, The New York Times ran a piece about Harvey Weinstein’s rampant sexual abuse of his co-workers, including many high-profile actors. What followed was other women coming out with their own stories about abuse in Hollywood, not limited to Weinstein, and the movie mogul’s eventual conviction and sentencing. Director Maria Schrader’s She Said is a empathetic and effective account of the making of the New York Times article that spawned this #MeToo movement, and the 2019 book of the same name.

Adapted from the novel of the same name, the film charts the course of two journalists, Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) and Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan), uncovering the Weinstein sexual assault allegations, as they follow a trail of allegations. 

True to its title, She Said is an act in listening and it crafts a journalistic thriller through conversations. The film’s goal, which at its core is to centre the voices of the women involved in this case, is fulfilled by a series of thoughtful conversations.

She Said
Director: Maria Schrader
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Zoe Kazan, Patricia Clarkson, Andre Braugher, Jennifer Ehle, Samantha Morton, Ashley Judd, and others
Duration: 129 minutes
Storyline: In 2017, journalists from The New York Times piece together allegations to uncover a pattern of systemic sexual abuse by Harvey Weinstein

In conversing with the victims, Megan and Jodie grow to learn the extent of Weinstein’s rot. In conversations with each other, they share their personal anxieties about the case. However, the most poignant conversations take place between Megan and Jodie with their respective families, especially their children. In these, they try to maintain a sense of normalcy, shielding them from their work. 

It highlights what is not often shown in films centered on journalism; a person reporting on an incident/ topic they have experienced first-hand themselves. Megan is threatened of rape while covering sexual allegations against Donald Trump, and later in the film when she is having lunch with Jodie, they both are jeered at.

Despite the repetitve element of Megan and Jodie interviewing the victims, the script remains tight, and the journalists straddle the responsibility of chronicling the past while also racing to stop Weinstein in his tracks.

Another choice that defines the film is its portrayal of Harvey Weinstein himself. He is categorically the predator and the script does not move to personify him beyond that in any manner. His visible screen presence amounts only to a shot of him from the back, but the film still manages to convey the abject horror that his being pervaded. As Megan and Jodie attempt to get women to go on record for their story, they are met with repeated roadblocks of fear and silence, which as one woman points out were “built by Weinstein.”

She Said never gives Weinstein the personhood that he used to bully Hollywood with. He is stripped of any facet that renders him human, leaving behind only a monster that looms large hauntingly as Megan and Jodie piece together their story.  

All these creative choices lend themselves to creating a film that may serve as mould for other media in the future that wants to deal with the topic of sexual assault; that exploitation and dehumanisation of women is not something that needs to filmed for consumption to register its impact. It enough to just listen to what the victims are saying.

Bringing in Ashley Judd and Gwyneth Paltrow to play themselves adds another complex layer to the script which hinges between the sensitivities of a fictional adaptation and a clinical accuracy of a documentary.

However, the subject of this movie, and its domestic production, demands that Hollywood look back at how it handled the #MeToo movement in 2017. Though the film’s writing and direction are helmed by women, it would be remiss to not note that the production company backing it is owned by Brad Pitt. The actor has not only worked with Weinstein numerous times, but now is also facing allegations of abuse.

In its more than two hours of screentime, She Said provides an imperative account of the efforts that broke the silence that Weinstein had imposed on his victims. While the #MeToo movement itself has brought forth less than adequate change in the industry, this film remains a study in how to treat stories of sexual assault, of which the first step continues to be to listen.

She Said is currently running in theatres

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