Review: “She Said” Is A Powerful Procedural on Sexual Harassment

Hyper-competent, captivating, but occasionally heavy-handed, Maria Schrader’s She Said sheds light on the sheer amount of effort and journalistic diligence it took to bring the crimes of Harvey Weinstein to light.

In 2017, New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) and Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) are working on separate stories of sexual harassment. Kantor discovers a series of complaints on Miramax film studio head Weinstein. As she investigates, she continually finds women who were harassed or abused, but are unwilling to go on the record.

Joined by Twohey on the investigation, the pair follow leads to dead ends to more leads in search of the truth. Backed by editors Rebecca Corbett (Patricia Clarkson) and Dean Baquet (Andre Braugher), the pair finally have a breakthrough. Following interviews with victims Laura Madden (Jennifer Ehle), Zelda Perkins (Samantha Morton), Rowena Chiu (Angela Yeoh), and Ashley Judd (playing herself), the story begins to come together just as Weinstein begins to push back.

The first 30 minutes set a certain expectation of what is to come. At the beginning, the film is in no way subtle with the message it is trying to send. That doesn’t mean it should be, but the opening table-setting is key for the work to be done for the rest of the film. More than anything, Kantor and Twohey are shown as capable and tenacious journalists. The everyday grind and minutia of investigative reporting is reinforced.

On top of the journalism,, both women are shown attempting to balance their work life with their home life. Each are married with children and are equal parents with their spouses. They do field phone calls on nights and weekends, but it’s a part of their lives, not a barrier to it. I truly appreciate the lack of manufactured home drama to add to the pressures of their work drama. Both husbands and children are supportive of the women’s work and understand the rigors that are required of them. There’s so much understanding, it’s downright refreshing.

The stop-starts and journalistic hard work changes pace when Weinstein’s victims are found. Suddenly, the film shifts perspective on the work of the journalists and onto the story of the women. Each interview is given the gravity, breath, and sensitivity each story deserves. The question of why these women don’t come forward is always hanging in the air until these interviews. As soon as each woman tells their story, everything comes into focus. The context is devastating and meaningful.

Neither Kazan nor Mulligan are playing big, flashy characters. Both Kantor and Twohey are just regular women trying to do their jobs and the actresses reflect that with muted performances. Mulligan gets the opportunity to be more angry while Kazan gets to be more emotional. Both provide a steady throughline in the investigation that is important to keep it all grounded.

Morton only appears in one scene, but it is such a powerhouse, her performance almost steals the movie. She isn’t necessarily a direct victim, but stands alongside a victim in the strongest of terms. Her fury and righteousness are the perfect tonal difference from where the movie was to where it changes following her scene. Ehle is also very limited in screentime, but she is more graceful in her descriptions. She has other things to worry about besides recounting her story, but she still lends it the gravity it needs. Each women tell similar stories in drastically different ways, but are perfectly punctuated.

Braugher finds a happy medium between cool efficiency at work and authoritarian presence. He supports the journalists but isn’t beyond pushing back against pressure. I was also very taken with longtime character actor Zack Grenier as an accountant who helps the journalists. His realization that Weinstein is doing more devious actions that just extramarital affairs conflicts him and lets him help more than he was initially willing to. No actor misses a step.

Schrader keeps things uncomplicated. The story is powerful enough on its own. The sparse use of flashbacks are poignant and evocative. Each encounter tempers the victim with where they were, where they wanted to be, where they adjusted to, and where they are now. It’s a wildly effective tool that isn’t overused.

It might take a bit to get going, but She Said is as powerful as the diligent reporting depicted in the film. Pointed, well-acted, and memorable, audiences can add this film to the list of first-class journalism films.

She Said opens in theaters on November 18th
Score: 4.0/5.0

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