Since the #MeToo movement got kicked into full gear in 2017, a number of films have attempted to grapple with the fallout in direct and indirect ways, including The Assistant, which centered on a fictitious movie production company, and Bombshell, which looked at the culture within Fox News. But the new film She Said is the first to tackle what started it all, the investigative piece about movie producer Harvey Weinstein in the New York Times by reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor.
The film – directed by Maria Schrader and written by Rebecca Lenkiewicz – takes a deep dive on the lengths Twohey (Carey Mulligan) and Kantor (Zoe Kazan) go to uncover as many of Weinstein’s sexual misdeeds as they can. However, it does so in a way that makes the ordinary feel extraordinary.
Right from the start, the story establishes the two reporters as great at their jobs and well-respected by their peers, something they accomplish without ever including even a line explaining how they got to be who they are. At the same, each is shown to be a devoted wife and mother, demonstrating that the two roles are not mutually exclusive, a basic idea that still tends to not be understood by many in society.
This early personalization is crucial, as it gives the characters the credibility and emotional bandwidth to handle the difficult road on which they’re about to travel. The film is full of quick scenes that do an amazing job of giving all the necessary details of the story without getting bogged down in exposition. It also delivers a bunch of emotional gut punches, sometimes with little-to-no set-up, an extremely difficult accomplishment made to look easy by the talented filmmakers.
The film demonstrates how hard it is for women, even established movie stars, to fend off the advances of a powerful predator and to overcome the system designed to protect such people. Schrader and Lenkiewicz include a number of haunting flashback scenes, sometimes narrated by the words of the victims themselves, that underscore this idea, sequences that mostly don’t show anything but the spaces in which Weinstein abused his power.
The film could also be considered a master class in how to be a good journalist. Time after time, Twohey and Kantor are shown engaging in empathetic yet persistent interviews. The patience they have, not just with women reluctant to come forward but also with Weinstein and his protectors, could be considered a movie convention, but as presented it never once feels false.
It would seem that Mulligan, a two-time Oscar nominee, is supposed to be the star of the film, and while she’s typically great, it’s Kazan who steals the show. She’s had stand-out moments before in films like Ruby Sparks and The Big Sick, but she takes her acting to a completely different level here. Also terrific in supporting roles are Patricia Clarkson, Andre Braugher, and Jennifer Ehle.
She Said is an astonishing feat of filmmaking, bringing big drama out of a story with which many people are already intimately familiar. It deserves to be nominated for a slew of Oscars, with Kazan and Mulligan leading the way.
She Said opens in theaters on November 18.