By: Amanda Guarragi
Journalists are meant to find the truth and amplify voices using their platform for whichever publication they write for. There was a period when America fell to pieces because of the President they elected into office. If you weren’t a white cis male, you were a target for discrimination and harassment. The President himself had many sexual assault allegations made against him, but he was still sitting in the White House. This was proof that men would never be held accountable for their actions. During the same run of *his* presidency, Hollywood also crumbled because of the big bad producer, Harvey Weinstein. In October 2017, the New York Times published a story detailing decades of allegations of sexual harassment against Weinstein. She Said is about the two women, Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) and Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan), who wrote the article exposing Weinstein’s transgressions. As more women came forward with their own stories, the #MeToo movement — which started in 2007 by Tarana Burke — gained some steam when Alyssa Milano urged women online to share their stories amidst these new allegations.
Director Maria Schrader made some excellent choices to show the stories of the survivors. She let the stories breathe as the women would retell their painful memories to the journalists. Schrader never showed any physical moments between the survivors and Weinstein, which was the right choice. Given the title of this film, the words being spoken by the women became more powerful as there were only images implying how the situation had unravelled. It was more powerful to process the words than to connect to graphic images on the screen. These claims happen to women more than any of us care to admit, and the language used to explain what happened is more chilling than a re-enactment of a terrible memory. The script is co-written by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, Kantor, and Twohey. They highlighted the spaces in the timeline to keep a steady pace. There are tense moments that could resonate with journalists on a different level, and the score by Nicholas Britell would flow seamlessly in and out without overpowering moments. The score has a mix of sadness and hopefulness, depending on who is speaking.
It’s hard to present this story while still addressing certain actors in the business who didn’t want to corroborate with the filmmakers. However, Ashley Judd stood firm and told her story with such gravitas, similar to her speech at the Women’s March. Having her in this film is one of the reasons why this felt so grounded. The other stories were presented in a way that viewers could connect with. But it’s a familiar face, whom audiences know, and it puts things into perspective. Many do not know the story of Weinstein, but those who do feel connected to the women who shared their stories, especially actors, whom they’ve connected with over the years. It also helped that Mulligan and Kazan have two of the most trusting faces, which made their performances as journalists compelling. Kazan had a softer approach than Mulligan, and that’s why they complimented each other. Twohey was more of a take-no-prisoners journalist who went head-to-head with the lawyers and Weinstein. Kantor was able to speak sincerely to survivors and connect emotionally. The two of them together made such a fantastic pairing, and I wanted to see more of them after the film ended.
She Said has entered the hall of fame of films about journalism. This is one of the better, more engaging pieces surrounding a publication like the New York Times. Maria Schrader knew how she wanted to handle the subject matter, and she kept a woman at the centre of every single conversation and frame. This time, the voices and pieces of dialogue were more important than showing the assaults on screen. It felt like watching a chain of events unfold naturally, and all the missing pieces would align for the story to move forward. Even when Weinstein did make an appearance, the camera stayed on Twohey, and her gaze burned into him because she knew the truth. This film is a powerful reminder that there are women whose stories have yet to be told. Hollywood has put on a facade for many years to protect one of the producers with the deepest pockets. If this could happen in a billion-dollar industry, imagine what is happening in other workplaces that suffer without anyone addressing it. It is also a difficult film to watch because of the stories shared. Even if a woman has never gone through an experience like that, there is empathy for the situation because it could, unfortunately, happen to anyone.