In a compelling combination of a #MeToo exposé and high stakes reporting, “She Said” follows two New York Times reporters during 2016 in their efforts to find sources who will go on the record with their stories of abuse by Harvey Weinstein, who was at the time a kingmaker in the movie industry.The movie centers on investigative reporters Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) and Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) as they team up to examine rumors of Weinstein’s sexual exploitation in Hollywood. This R-rated film, directed by Maria Schrader, is currently showing at Linway Cinemas for $8-$12, depending on showtimes.
Above all, “She Said” reminds audiences of the toxic ways that the movie industry has silenced victims and protected abusers. As Kantor and Twohey begin to grasp the pervasiveness and history of this abuse, so too does the audience: in a car ride, the two reporters realize that “the only way these women will go on the record is if they all jump ship together.”
Throughout the movie, women who worked for Weinstein have accumulated and shared tips for fending off Weinstein’s advances: wear two pairs of tights, don a puffer jacket, and sit in an armchair, rather than a two-person sofa.
Many of the victims were bound by undisclosed amounts of hush money, paid by Weinstein in exchange for a non-disclosure agreement. These agreements, along with fear of difficulty of finding future jobs or retribution, weighed heavily on the women as they chose whether to talk on the record. Strength in numbers would have been to their advantage, but Kantor and Twohey found that few women were willing to be the first named source in a New York Times article.
The movie’s climax comes when the reporters hear from Ashley Judd (played by herself), who is willing to go on the record. Kantor and Twohey secured the trust of high-profile sources such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Judd, as well as other women, including a secretary, who were abused while working for Weinstein at his company, Miramax.
With scenes shot in the N.Y.T. newsroom, the film was reminiscent of “All the President’s Men” in its portrayal of backroom negotiations, celebrity sourcing and deadline pressure. “She Said,” however, did not really diverge from the model set by “All the President’s Men” and lacked a fresh take on a journalism story.
Still, “She Said” shines in its own right. Being so central, Mulligan’s and Kazan’s performances needed to dazzle — and they did. Their interplay shows how journalist teams can work well: in one scene, they decide on an in-person cold call at a potential source’s house, and agree that Kantor will be the one to talk because she’s “less intimidating” due to her shorter height. Amid the burden and stress that came with breaking such a big story, intimate moments like this and time with family helped humanize the reporters.
Aside from fleeting moments of family time, we don’t get much of a personal profile of Kantor and Twohey. Their reporting work often coincides with time at home with their husbands, newborn baby and young children’s listening ears. Their husbands played supportive roles with hardly any words spoken, highlighting how women can be the central figures in marriages.
Many of the sources had to be doggedly corralled and repeatedly implored for any and all details: At one point, Twohey scouted out the house where John Schmidt, a former C.F.O. at Miramax, lived as she waited with binoculars late at night until he and his wife returned.
After they went into their house, Twohey came up and knocked, asking if he knew anything about the settlement payments and whether they had come from company funds. Given his wife’s bewildered response, it seems that Twohey strategically waited until the husband and wife were together to get her to add pressure and compel him to help their investigation.
The storyline was hard to follow at times, due to so many characters and flashbacks. Kantor and Twohey run around trying to find many sources with stories of abuse unfinished, and the women’s stories sometimes blur together. Between all the women involved, as well as men that Kantor and Twohey tried to find to corroborate stories, it can be a lot for audiences to follow.
But perhaps that’s exactly the point: the Hollywood industry has had so many protections for abusers, and that’s what allowed the exploitation to run rampant. It’s hard to keep track of Weinstein’s trail of women he abused — because he abused so many. That was the intentional reality that women in the movie industry faced, and Schrader effectively portrayed the overwhelming scope and degree of Weinstein’s abuses.
The movie ends at the same place the story started for most of the world: with the publication of Twohey and Kantor’s article. As it ends, the audience seems to join the group of editors and journalists, peering over their shoulders during that metamorphic moment it left the newsroom and changed the industry.