'She Said' review: Powerful investigative thriller chronicles fall of Harvey Weinstein
Courtesy of Universal
Like “All the President's Men” and “Spotlight” before it, “She Said” is a powerful tale that celebrates how good, solid journalism can lead to systemic change. Directed with mighty gusto and incredible urgency by Mara Schrader, “She Said” shines a deep, introspective light on The New York Times investigation surrounding former heavyweight producer Harvey Weinstein and his immediate #MeToo reckoning when a flurry of women, who he sexually assaulted, went on the record against him. Based on the book by Jodi Kanto and Megan Twohey, played in the film by Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan, this is an old fashioned newspaper drama anchored by unwavering authenticity and timely relevance, showcasing the trail of breadcrumbs and decades of coercion which kept abusers and rapists like Weinstein in power while many in the Hollywood community stood by and did nothing.
Of course, “She Said” might follow routine mechanics of journalism thrillers, but the relentless energy and down-to-earth pedigree, in addition to the raw emotion still festering five years removed from the articles published date, elevate the picture into a separate tier. “She Said” shows sympathy and compassion for its victims while staying true to the source material and the exhausting grind both Twohey and Kanto endured to keep the record straight. It’s a different beast altogether and Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s adapted script doesn’t shy away from harsh and triggering testimonials, including real audio recordings of a Weinstein attack.
If done right and used well, you don’t even notice that filmmakers are relying on these basic, you’ve-seen-them-all-before, foundational threads, and “She Said” does it masterfully. There’s also something cathartic about strong, fierce women being the cause for Weinstein’s eventual downfall and the reason he’d end up in prison. Shakespeare couldn’t write it better if he tried.
Kazan and Mulligan captivate in the lead roles, where in addition to playing award winning journalists, they are also two loving mothers desperate to raise their daughters in a world that doesn’t victimize women for speaking the truth. Unlike “All the President’s Men,” which didn’t give major insight into the livelihoods of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, “She Said” allows a glimpse of Twohey and Kantor’s personal endeavors and their independence when it comes to chasing a solid lead. These two didn’t have a lavish lifestyle nor are they wealthy, which means juggling various schedules around their kids, but they also must be prepared to pick up the phone if Ashley Judd, who plays herself in the movie, calls with a comment or quote for the story. Kazan delivers some career best work and is a standout in several scenes, including a moment explaining to her elementary school-aged daughter that “rape” isn’t a term thrown around lightly (“But all the boys say it”) and a touching moment when a skeptic, but mighty source agrees to finally go on the record.
While “She Said” thrives on the gripping attestation of these brave women, the movie soars when it peels back the curtain on the meticulous, slow-burn editorial molding that comes with breaking a major story of this caliber. Half the movie is spent exploring leads, false trails and the intense scrutiny and collaboration of facts. It’s grueling as it is methodical, but it’s an exhilarating display of journalistic integrity that ends on a tasteful note, highlighting the names of the victims who came forward. All of this is punctuated by Nicholas Britell’s exceptional, old-school score.
But there’s an even stronger sequence in “She Said” where Twohey agrees to a meeting with Weinstein (we only see an actor play him from behind) in the film's closing moments. She’s sitting there getting berated by a board room full of Weinstein defenders before the camera does a slow pan on her facial expression and we can see the feeling of satisfaction in that moment. The people in that room don’t know it (or perhaps they didn’t want to think about it), but they had already lost. Thankfully, the Weinstein fallout was swift and brutal, and it couldn’t come soon enough.
SHE SAID is now playing in theaters.