Harvey Weinstein was once a titan of Hollywood, but after a sexual assault expose, he was rightly ousted and is now serving a decades-long prison sentence. It’s a story that pretty much anyone in the entertainment industry kept themselves informed about after it broke — but the Oscar bait film She Said hopes to inform audiences of how it broke, and fails miserably in doing so.
The movie follows journalists Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor as they investigate and break the story of Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual assault in Hollywood, kicking off the #MeToo movement in a way that would have profound effects in the entertainment world. The New York Times Weinstein story is perhaps one of the most recognizable pieces in journalism history, and yet this film takes such an ineffective approach that it hardly feels as triumphant as it should.
Much of the praise of the movie will come from it being an acting showcase, and the power of the performances is pretty undeniable. Both Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan do an excellent job as the journalists exposing the truth behind this web of cover-ups. Patricia Clarkson and Andre Braugher are also stand outs in the supporting cast as the NYT’s editorial staff.
Director Maria Schrader brings such a questionable directorial style to the table, and it seems as if it was more out of desperation than creativity. The only real-life victim to participate in the film is Ashley Judd, and the rest of the characters are awkwardly written out or depicted using poor voice work. It’s understandable why these people wouldn’t or can’t participate, but there are much less distracting ways this could have been addressed.
However, the area in which the movie most suffers is its lack of empathy for the victims of Harvey Weinstein. Although this is clearly the journalists’ story, there is a way to tell their story in a way that still cares about the victims as more than names to go in a newspaper article. These victims are hardly depicted as important beyond their role in the New York Times story, as evidenced by the climactic scene that zooms in on their names, showing them more as a name than as a person.
At several points throughout the film, it seems to imply that the victims who are choosing to remain anonymous — whether out of fear or simply because they don’t want to — are not doing enough, and that they should be doing more. While the people who did speak out are undeniably courageous, that doesn’t mean the people who didn’t are not. By taking this perspective, Rebecca Lenkiewicz is treading dangerously close to victim-shaming.
Lenkiewicz also shows disappointingly little interest in the broken circumstances that created this situation in the first place. Of course, sexual harrassment and discrimination are bad, but we didn’t need a movie saying that. We needed a movie peeling back the curtain on all of the enablers who allowed sexual assault to effectively become an epidemic, and She Said only addresses those issues through a few underdeveloped lines.
She Said offers what is, quite frankly, a disgusting and backwards perspective on the role of the victims in the Harvey Weinstein case. While there is no questioning that the work Twohey and Kantor did is important, this movie’s lack of empathy — and perhaps even lack of interest — in the victims’ stories makes it a film that would have been better left unmade.
She Said screened as part of the 2022 Miami Film Festival GEMS program, which runs November 3-10.