Release Date – 25th November 2022, Cert – 15, Run-time – 2 hours 8 minutes, Director – Maria Schrader
The story of the New York Times investigation which launched the #MeToo campaign and uncovered decades of sexual abuse and misconduct from Harvey Weinstein and other Hollywood figures.
For a film that follows an investigation into historical cases of sexual abuse and misconduct She Said rarely uses flashbacks or recreations. Instead we sit with those scarred and affected – in one case Ashley Judd plays herself – as they retell their traumas to New York Times journalists Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) and Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan). While keeping your interest in these interview sequences through the dialogue and performances there are occasional glimpses of static shots of the settings in which the discussed events took place. Objects and clothing are sometimes strewn across the floor, the shots could be seen as a crime scene – they are a crime scene. Occasionally a sound may drift in such as a shower running, or the subtle notes of Nicholas Britell’s excellent score. As the camera stays static it enhances the feeling of being stuck in that moment, unable to leave as the dialogue adds to the discomfort being felt.
There’s reluctance from some to speak about their experiences, while others don’t want to go on the record knowing what the man their accusing is capable of. Hollywood titan Harvey Weinstein, the man who could make, and in some cases broke, their hopes and careers. The Times is investigating decades of abuse from Weinstein, and uncovering more across Hollywood, as the film covers the research and writing of the article from which the #MeToo campaign sprung. Throughout the effect that Weinstein has had on the women interviewed lingers as journalists face increasing threats from him and his team in relation to the supposed-to-be-secretive article. We don’t see his face, we rarely hear his voice. But as it crackles over speakerphone through the voice of Mike Houston you can’t help but feel a sense of fear and tension in those moments.
While we know of where the piece ends up and the effect of it the film isn’t about that. It’s about what was went through to write the piece, not just for the journalists but for those who suffered for it to have to be uncovered in the first place. The film allows the words of Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s screenplay (adapted from Kantor, Twohey and Rebecca Corbett’s (played here by Patricia Clarkson) book of the same name) to speak for themselves. Delivered well by a strong ensemble cast – led by Kazan, with a more held back, ‘formal’ performance, and Mulligan, with the more visible, ‘performance’ style take, both of whom are very good in their roles – things flow well and keep you engaged throughout.
You’re caught up in the investigation and the determination of the team that are trying to put together this article against all adversities, including rival publications potentially tackling similar stories. There’s a strong source of interest throughout the conversations, discussions, reveals and more that line the course of the narrative all building up to a rather brilliant ending point. One which leaves you sat back in silence, although different to those of stunned fear and shock which arise at certain points throughout the film – including when a member of the writing staff receives a severely unsettling dead-pan death threat from a stranger over the phone.
Maria Schrader’s direction helps to also keep the pace up and things moving along. Never causing things to feel rushed while never drawing moments out or making an interview feel like a standard back-and-forth. There’s plenty within the additions to certain scenes, and Lenkiewicz’s screenplay to avoid all of this and simply lead to a more engaging film. One which stirs up emotions and responses to what is witnessed and heard about. Discomfort and tension are firmly rooted in certain moments as the performances help to further bring you in to each moment of research which often feels for the central figures involved as if it’s going nowhere or could have the plug pulled at any second for one reason or another.
She Said deals with a lot and handles it all well thanks to the fact that it keeps its key points at the centre and moves with them consistently. Knowing what needs to be said and done to get to that excellent final shot. All within a film where part of the power comes through the fact that it acknowledges, and points out, that there is a lot that still needs to be done; and can be done, to stop and tackle sexual abuse. Subtly going well beyond its point of communal strength and the tagline question of “will you go on the record?” to create a strong, emotionally engaging piece of work with a fine flow and confidence.
She Said does a lot within the well-flowing build up to its brilliant final shot. The natural power of Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s screenplay is lifted by the central performances and direction which allow for moments to speak for themselves without feeling bland or repetitive. A very well told story with plenty of emotional engagement and effects.