Hollywood loves to celebrate journalism, but the profession isn’t easy to nail on screen.
Endless phone calls. Shoe leather reporting. Rejection after rejection until that key source finally comes clean. It’s hardly cinematic catnip.
The 1976 classic “All the President’s Men” had the advantage of Beltway shenanigans, mysterious figures like “Deep Throat” and the end of an American presidency.
“She Said” works with more modest resources – women sexually attacked by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein who won’t speak on the record (and understandably so).
We all know justice finally got its close-up, ending Weinstein’s reign of terror. That doesn’t stop “She Said” from telling a rigorous yarn, one that occasionally trips over its self-righteousness.
Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan star as Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, New York Times reporters pursuing sexual abuse allegations against Weinstein. The newspaper tried, and failed, to derail Donald Trump’s presidential dreams by reporting on women who claimed he sexually accosted them.
Now, the far-Left paper has a new target, but getting the goods on the Oscar-winning producer won’t be easy.
Doors get slammed in their faces. Phone calls aren’t returned. And even those willing to speak, through tears and anguished laments won’t let their details go public.
The reporters refuse to give up, aided by the steady support of their superiors (a one-note Patricia Clarkson and a paternal Andre Braugher).
Can they wrangle enough sources to “hit” publish, or will Weinstein’s defenses, and the system which keeps him in power, triumph?
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“She Said” explores how sexual predators in any field stay out of trouble, from systemic regulations preventing key details from going public to public pressure to stay silent.
Weinstein’s downfall triggered the flawed MeToo movement, and “She Said” wants us to know a single producer’s fate extends beyond Hollywood’s gilded cage.
That’s where Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s screenplay stumbles, over and again. Some exchanges feel like op-ed snippets, patiently explaining how the “system” protects and enables predators. There’s a solid point here, but it forgets the old storytelling maxim.
Show, don’t tell.
Otherwise, we’re privy to a blend of the reporters’ persistence and their domestic lives, purposefully intertwined to humanize our heroines.
Megan just gave birth to a baby girl and feels the full force of postpartum depression. Jodi juggles a 24/7-style job with her duties as a wife and mother.
“She Said” refuses to make these reporters superheroic. One interrogation goes badly for Jodi, showing the limits of her charm offensive. It’s still the film’s most compelling theme, how investigative reporters rally their personal resources to get the story right.
They start with small talk, segue into general questions and then go for the jugular. Every case is different, though, and given the sensitive nature of the questions they’re often more like counselors than hardened scribes.
The film mentions a competing investigation by Ronan Farrow, but the focus remains on the Times’ mission.
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Weinstein himself stays mostly off screen, heard several times and briefly glimpsed in the third act. We don’t need his physical presence. He’s the film’s villain, and every aspect of the story all but screams why.
Hollywood hearts journalism, and it always has. The fact that the industry curdled in recent years isn’t factored into the story. That’s a flaw, but the hard work Megan and Jodi brought to the case deserves recognition, regardless of the context.
The film never mentions Weinstein’s deep Democratic ties, of course, and only flirts with the reality that many Hollywood denizens knew something (or more) about his actions. (One such star, Brad Pitt, serves as a producer on the film)
And they stayed whisper silent.
Breaking through that silence, and giving women a template for the future, is why Weinstein’s prosecution matters. It’s also clear some monsters will remain out of the spotlight, and others won’t have tenacious reporters like the real-life Times duo breathing down their necks.
HiT or Miss: “She Said” offers a gripping tale of journalism done right, all in the service of women who deserved justice against a serial predator.