The story of Harvey Weinstein’s criminal, abusive behavior has been told and retold, from outstanding investigative reporting to the Law and Order ripped from the headline’s treatment. When the story broke, like a lot of people, I read Ronan Farrow’s coverage in The New Yorker and his book. Simultaneously, perhaps less sensationally, two reporters for The New York Times, Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, worked to break the story of Weinstein’s crimes and the system that enabled him. Based on the reporting that resulted, She Said tells their story.
The movie picks up as reporters at The New York Times look into systemic sexual harassment in the workplace. Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) digs into allegations against an anonymous producer made by actresses including Rose McGowan (Keilly McQuail) and Ashley Judd (herself). Back from maternity leave, Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) joins Jodi, and the pair are supported by their editorial team (Patricia Clarkson. Andre Braugher, and Sean Cullen) as the investigation focuses on Harvey Weinstein. While Jodi persuades women including Laura Madden (Jennifer Ehle), Rowena Chiu (Angela Yeoh), and Lisa Bloom (Anastasia Barzee) to go on the record with their experiences, Megan chases down legal documents and insider sources to illustrate how lawyers and the Miramax board covered for Weinstein. This story of phone calls and Google docs tends to drag as the content is not always dramatic, but the story it tells and the quality of the filmmaking more than compensate.
She Said vividly portrays the more difficult aspects of moving through the world as a woman. The attention to women’s body language as they walked through city streets, the emphasis on childcare and the nuts and bolts of trying to get anything done with kids around, and the tenderness with which the characters were treated all broadcast to me that this movie was about women and made by women. For example, when Twohey experiences postpartum depression before getting back to work, her feelings are validated by other women on her team, who support her without it becoming a huge plot point because they understand what she is going through. In another scene, one of the reporters has to fly to Los Angeles and London. They look at each other and without a word, it is clear that Megan cannot go because her daughter is too small, so Jodi says she will work something out with her husband. Mothering is a major factor in a movie that is very much not about children. Rather, the women relate to each other as full people with complex responsibilities. The team does a wonderful job of acknowledging those dynamics in women’s lives without devolving into a Mother’s Day card. Furthermore, their supportive husbands, although minor characters, are not merely props—a needed point in a movie that deals so much with sexism and abuse.
The other major thread in the film is the importance of sound investigative reporting, doing the work of checking facts and getting sources on the record. This element situates the story in the tradition of films like All the President’s Men and Spotlight. Although Twohey and Kantor are the stars of the story, the role of their editorial team at the Times frames the finished project. Before they publish the story, a quietly dramatic scene shows the whole team huddled around the computer, giving it a final proofread. The shot elegantly depicts how many people work on a good published article. In a time when quality journalism gets lumped in with people spouting off online, She Said makes a case for reporters’ value.
The ensemble delivers outstanding performances in these complicated roles. Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan have such chemistry as a duo, but they also individually infuse their characters with humility and gravitas, making every phone call and interview compelling. The voice actors portraying high-profile people, including Donald Trump and Rose McGowan, do such an incredible job that at first, I thought the voices were digitally rendered. Finally, the women playing Weinstein’s victims have few scenes each, but they bring out real depth in the women, portraying how events from years before still impact them.
She Said is not the most scintillating version of this story. It is probably difficult to make fact-checking cinematic. It is, however, an important entry in the journalist as hero subgenre and treats its subjects with dignity that I found very moving.
She Said was written by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, based on the investigation by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, and directed by Maria Schrader. It runs 129 minutes and is rated R for what Harvey Weinstein did.