Phenomenal. What Maria Schrader’s film does so well is simple — listen. And not just to the victims, which it does powerfully so. She Said’s script includes the aggressors, the bullies, and the paid legal muscle to use the truth of their own words to expose predatory behavior.
We review the film She Said, which does not contain significant spoilers.
The shocking thing about the New York Times‘ reporting of the sexual abuse crimes of Harvey Weinstein is how long it went on. There are reports Hollywood’s biggest names were aware of Weinstein’s behavior. Yet, nothing was done about it because he carried a proven box office track record and Oscar-winning credibility. If it wasn’t for the dogged determination of two Pulitizer Prize-winning journalists — Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor — the story may have never seen the light of day. She Said takes their reporting and builds a narrative that went on for over 25 years that no one dared to talk about in the papers. That’s until a handful of victims decided to share their stories in the power of numbers.
The film starts with a young Irish woman living the dream of being an assistant on the set of a Miramax film. Minutes later, the same girl is running through the streets crying hysterically. There are a handful of scenes like that in the movie on the trauma of being sexually assaulted. She Said not only depicts other famous actresses reporting being harassed and assaulted by Weinstein but equal treatment to all. (The names are eye-opening, and some simple google searches are even more shocking). There are a series of very young women who are all fresh out of school. All are looking at an exciting career in the movie industry.
Twohey (Carey Mulligan) already reported on Donald Trump’s sexual harassment allegations. Yet, somehow he still won the election. Why would someone care about a studio executive and famous bitter performers? Her colleague, Kantor (Zoe Kazan), looks at her and plainly says that if this can happen to a famous Hollywood actress, imagine what is happening to everyone else. And she’s right. The trio of actresses playing these women as adults (Samantha Morton, Jennifer Ehle, and Angela Yeoh) tells their stories in horrifying and alarming detail, of not just the assaults but the aftermath, damage, and steps Weinstein’s legal team undertakes to cover it all up.
Let’s get this out of the way — this is a phenomenal film. What director Maria Schrader‘s film does so well is simple — listen. And not just to the victims, which it does powerfully so. Rebecca Lenkiewicz‘s script includes the aggressors, the bullies, and the paid legal muscle to use the truth of their own words to expose predatory behavior. In a jaw-dropping scene, Schrader continues in and out of shots of hotel hallways. This while a police wire recording depicts an interaction between Weinstein and one of his assistants. It’s an astounding scene that pulls the curtain back on his actions, which is overwhelmingly powerful.
This is an excellent cast with some terrific performances from Lenkiewicz’s superb script. You can feel how Kazan engages the viewer with empathetic and stoic glances as she asks delicate and well-placed open-ended questions with perfectly timed pregnant pauses. Mulligan’s magnetic tough-as-nails reporter can also be charmingly disarming as she finesses greater details out of her subjects. However, perhaps Ashley Judd shines brightest, a woman who was brave enough to endure a nightmare and survive. She is also courageous enough to convey her experiences on screen, playing herself. It’s an awards-worthy turn that is stunningly authentic and heartbreakingly real.
She Said is one of the year’s very best films. You can roll your eyes at the lack of “cinematic flair” some critics are throwing up at a film that shatters the myth of the “he said, she said” argument. The power here is in the voices. The ones finally being heard. With those who were there to listen.
Please do the same and let the film wash over you.
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