How two crusading reporters brought down a grotesque Hollywood Goliath
Starring Carey Mulligan & Zoe Kazan
Directed by Maria Schrader
See it: In theaters Nov. 18
A pair of New York Times reporters digs into a bombshell story of sexual assault in this intimate and powerful drama about the downfall of Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan play Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, the two real-life journalists who doggedly pursue the rumors of Weinstein’s “problematic behavior” that lead them into a toxic swamp of wide-ranging, systemic misconduct.
“The wrongdoing in Hollywood,” says Kantor, “is overwhelming.”
Basing her film on the book Twohey and Kantor later wrote, German director Maria Schneider (who won an Emmy for the Netflix series Unorthodox) bores down into the intense investigative legwork—the nuts and bolts of how the newspaper approached such an explosive story. Weinstein, the head of the film company Miramax, became Hollywood kryptonite after Twohey and Kantor’s expose ushered in a chorus of more than 80 women to raise their voices in allegations against him, leading to his eventual conviction as a sex offender. Although the list of his victims included dozens of well-known actresses, plus assistants and former employees, the movie focuses on a just a handful (including Ashley Judd, who plays herself) telling the reporters their wrenching experiences.
It’s a serious story about a sordid affair, and it’s galvanized by the gravity of its two leads. Mulligan, the British Oscar nominee who dealt a previous blow to caustic masculinity in Promising Young Woman, brings emotional heft to her role as Twohey, balancing the rigors and stress of her job with her responsibilities as a new mom. Kazan, granddaughter of acclaimed director Elia Kazan, is an Emmy winner also playing another working mother. Both Twohey and Kantor have young daughters, and the film suggests the two hard-working reporters aren’t just chasing down leads, tracking decades of non-disclosure agreements and million-dollar settlements, glued to their iPhones talking to sources, and burning the midnight oil for a story. They’re making the world safer for a younger generation of women.
Patricia Clarkson plays their steely, seasoned, sure-handed editor, Rebecca Corbett. Andre Braugher is Dean Baquet, the Times’ managing editor, who’s dealt with Weinstein before—and doesn’t take any of his grandstanding b.s.
This saga of fiercely dedicated female empowerment is a solid journalistic “procedural” about the vital role of the press to find and present the truth. But it doesn’t sensationalize; we only get a brief glimpse of Weinstein (played by Boardwalk Empire’s Mike Houston) late in the film. But She Said draws a through-line, connecting the monstrous acts of the movie honcho to a much more pervasive network of abuse, allegations, deniers and enablers. Remember Bill O’Reilly at Fox News, and the 26 women who accused Donald Trump of kissing, groping or raping them?
The week of the movie’s release, Weinstein is facing even more charges, released from prison to stand trial in Los Angeles.
An important film with an impactful message, She Said spotlights how the journalistic sling of two women helped bring down a Hollywood Goliath. But it shows that Weinstein is only the ugly, exposed tip of a much bigger iceberg, one that had been submerged far too long. “If this can happen to Hollywood actresses, who else can it happen to?” asks Kantor rhetorically.
Who else, indeed? She Said says it could be anyone, anywhere, anytime, and reminds us that fighting sexual abuse is an ongoing battle—for everyone.