I have a thing for journalism procedurals, but sadly it’s not the kind of movie that comes around very often. With “She Said”, director Maria Schrader and screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz scratch that itch for fans of the genre like me. Their film is very much a procedural in every sense of the word. It’s no “All the President’s Men” or “Spotlight”, but it features many of the things those films do so well. Among them is highlighting the intrinsic value of investigative journalism, now more than ever.
“She Said” is based on the 2019 nonfiction book of the same name by New York Times journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. It chronicles their work to uncover and expose the sexual harassment and sexual abuse of high-profile film producer Harvey Weinstein. Over 80 women would end up coming forward accusing Weinstein of sexual misconduct including rape. His abuse spanned 30 years (at the very least) and was brought to a stop thanks the the reporting of Kantor and Twohey along with the brave victims who came forward to share their story. The 70-year-old Weinstein is currently serving 23 years in prison with more charges pending.
After what feels like some obligatory back-patting in the shaky and self-regarding opening ten minutes, “She Said” gets on track after New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) gets wind of a possible sexual assault by high-ranking Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. After conversations with actresses Rose McGowen, Ashley Judd, and Gwyneth Paltrow, Kantor realizes she has a much bigger story on her hands. So she recruits fellow Times reporter Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) to help root out the truth.
Mulligan and Kazan give strong performances, gelling with Lenkiewicz’s gloss-free yet undeniably polished screenplay to give us credible reporters on the trail of a story that would shake the industry and spark a movement. Both relay their characters’ fervor for the truth while touching on the psychological and emotional toll their investigation had on them and their families. Among the film’s biggest strengths – chronicling the ups and downs that come with investigative reporting. The movie also excels in giving voices to the victims who often remained hidden behind headlines. None are better than Jennifer Ehle and Samantha Morton who deliver the film’s most emotionally impactful moments.
That said, this is very much a self-celebrating movie, with journalists portrayed in such heavenly light that there’s little room for them to be anything more than journalists. Yes, Twohey is cool and iron-willed while Kantor is timid yet resolute. But those traits don’t really give us an idea of who these two women are. Even their bosses, Rebecca Corbett and Dean Bacquet (very well played by Patricia Clarkson and Andrew Braugher) bask in the same self-celebratory glow. This wouldn’t be a big deal if the movie was revealing things we didn’t already know. Instead everyone are just filling roles that are more or less defined for us from the first moment they appear on screen.
But that’s not to say “She Said” doesn’t have its values. Quite the opposite in fact. The above-mentioned interviews with victims really bring Weinstein’s damage to light (a few others, particularly with Ashley Judd who appears as herself, not so much). And it’s fascinating to watch Kantor and Twohey walk the fine-line between encouraging the victims to come forward as named sources and respecting their apprehension and reluctance. And again, if you’re someone who enjoys by-the-book journalism procedurals, “She Said” has exactly what you’re was looking for. “She Said” is out now in theaters now.