She Said

She Said

2022, R, 128 min. Directed by Maria Schrader. Starring Carey Mulligan, Zoe Kazan, Patricia Clarkson, Andre Braugher, Jennifer Ehle, Samantha Morton, Sean Cullen, Angela Yeoh, Peter Friedman, Zach Grenier, Tom Pelphrey, Adam Shapiro.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Nov. 18, 2022

An expert gamesman come awards season, the Hollywood megaproducer Harvey Weinstein no doubt could have mounted a winning Oscar campaign for this investigative drama – that is, if he weren’t currently rotting in jail for the crimes depicted here. The pipeline from real life to fictionalized entertainment doesn’t usually happen this fast. It was only five years ago that exposés (first in The New York Times and then in The New Yorker) laid bare the mogul’s decades-long, stomach-churning history of bullying, harassment, sexual assault, and rape in the movie industry – and in the process helped launch the #MeToo movement.

Both publications earned a Pulitzer for their reporting, and Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey of the Times explained their investigative process in 2019’s riveting She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement, the basis of this fictionalized retelling. Adapted by Rebecca Lenkiewicz (Ida) and directed by Maria Schrader (who won an Emmy for her work directing Netflix limited series Unorthodox), She Said skillfully compacts the tick-tock of their months-long reporting: the phone calls and records research and doors shut (metaphorically and literally) in their faces until finally they begin building the case, accumulating evidence, and convincing victims to go on the record. It’s the “shoe leather” stuff, and the really great journalism films aren’t afraid to juice suspense and killer speeches from it. There’s not enough of either here. She Said is a respectful, serious-minded effort that works so hard not to sensationalize the material, it works against its dramatic impact.

The performances are rock-solid. Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan (playing Twohey and Kantor, respectively) capably carry the film and gleam when they get to do more than just carry the plot forward. (Mulligan gets one tiny, perfect eruption – a primordial yowl of fury and exhaustion from just being a woman in the world.) Playing the duo’s editor Rebecca Corbett and NYT Executive Editor Dean Baquet, Patricia Clarkson and Andre Braugher radiate efficiency and professionalism. Ashley Judd – as the first of Twohey and Kantor’s celebrity sources to allow herself to be quoted, without anonymity, in her accusation of sexual harassment against Weinstein – plays herself, though most of the many famous people involved are not depicted onscreen. Instead, the bulk of the film focuses on the not-famous employees of Weinstein, those whose lives were disrupted and careers were derailed by his harassment and assault. That’s where the film sources its most potent performances: Samantha Morton as an ex-employee radiating righteous rage, and Jennifer Ehle (at once gentle and steely) as another victim still processing her trauma. Amidst a mostly muted movie, the volume gets turned up in Morton’s and Ehle’s scenes, and She Said feels not just important, but urgent.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

She Said, Maria Schrader, Carey Mulligan, Zoe Kazan, Patricia Clarkson, Andre Braugher, Jennifer Ehle, Samantha Morton, Sean Cullen, Angela Yeoh, Peter Friedman, Zach Grenier, Tom Pelphrey, Adam Shapiro

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