A single tweet by actor Rose McGowan from 2016, and an article nine months later, written by two New York Times writers, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, about Harvey Weinstein’s history of abuse would launch a gigantic movement, changing the world forever. This story would be recounted in a book written by the pair, and would inform the movie “She Said,” released on November 18, 2022.
In the movie the journalist, Jodi Kantor, and Megan Twohey were played by Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan.
The #MeToo movement that sparked following publication of the article would span the entire globe, leaving no abuser untouched. Whether it was the changes in work place sexual harrasment policies, conversations about abuse, other women gaining the courage to speak out about their abusers, and interrogating the systems that protect abusers, including Hollywood.
In the book, it focused on the importance of the sources and those who bravely stepped forward to connect the dots for the final story, despite threats of ruining their careers, facing lawsuits and damaging their reputations. The movie portrayed the journalists in a way the book never could have. The film brings together both aspects, almost as an ode to the journalists, as well as highlighting the collaborative efforts it takes to put a story of this magnitude together.
The movie “She Said” is an excellent representation of the long drawn out processes, and sometimes true frustrations, of being an investigative reporter. Regardless of whether someone has read the “She Said” book or not, the movie is easy to follow. Making it a movie to get caught up in, it’s less about getting lost in the story, or the twists and turns that might come with a thriller, or horror movies, but really sinking into the truth of what it takes to bring a story like this to light.
The movie, unlike the book, really shows the lives of these journalists, what is motivating them and what they want for their daughters; a world free of hidden and silenced rape, and sexual abuse.
This idea of creating a world that is better for their own children was emphasized when Kantor’s daughter used the word “rape” out of the blue when asking what Kantor was doing on a trip to London. This use of the word completely broke Kantor, leaving her completely in tears, and unsure of the impact the story would have on younger generations and especially her child.
Like any movie, She Said, dramatizes the process, but not in an overbearing way. There was never a scene that felt particularly out of place, maybe one or two that ran too long, but the film always followed a consistent storyline.
A recurrent visual that helps center the story are the hotel hallways, narrow and oppressive corridors, shut doors, no exit, that each of Weinstein’s victims was met with. This visual perfectly encapsulates nearly every woman’s experience, without visualizing actual instances of abuse. The feeling of being trapped and stuck with Weinstein, permeated the entire theater, closing you in and forcing you to absorb and internalize the traumatic sexual and verbal abuses of all these women. One feels how gruesomely abused by Weinstein they were, and how they had their boundaries trespassed and consent taken from them.
One scene that really caught my eye, and was probably one of the farthest deviations from the book, was a scene in a bar where the reporters and their editors meet for drinks and discuss the latest developments in the investigation… In the scene, a guy tries to hit on the two reporters, continually harassing them, only leaving when Twohey yells “fuck you,” multiple times. She later apologizes to her colleagues for her outburst, when Kantor then tells Twohey to stop and that she did great defending them. The scene is an important illustration of what women face on a daily basis while simply being out in the world.
Harvey Weinstein was never humanized in the film, he was seen only a couple of times throughout the film, briefly in profile, or his back, or just heard over the phone. He remained hidden throughout the film, as his behavior was concealed and protected over many years. The only clear shot of him is the back of his head at the end of the film, when the New York Times conducted their final interview prior to publication. This representation of Weinstein perfectly encapsulates his vile nature, his inhumanity, and diminishes his perceived power that allowed him to harm so many women.
At the very end of the film, prior to the publication of the article, two sources who had been afraid of the consequences of speaking out, Laura Madden, a woman, who the film focuses on in the very beginning in Ireland, and Ashley Judd, an actor from Los Angeles, both came forward to be named sources in the article, a major breakthrough for both Twohey and Kantor. The bravery of these women to speak on the record about their encounters with Weinstein allowed the investigations to come to a close, and upend the system that protects powerful men.
The biggest omission from the book, and one that could have contributed to tying the story together, was the journalists gathering most of their sources in a single room. Something both Kantor and Twohey briefly reminisced about in the movie, but was never shown or emphasized.
The finale of the movie catches up to Oct. 5 2017, the date the article was published by the New York Times. While understandable, it was slightly disappointing to not see the movie take on the public’s perception after the article was published, but it is clear why; the past informs the present, and a remaking of history would have been wrong, and could be potentially misinterpreted by those who watched it.
While it is an incredibly important story to be told and recounted, the irony of this film is that it profits off a story that Hollywood purposely covered up for many decades. The film has been called a box office flop, which may be related to the public’s disinterest for the journalistic process, and the societal exhaustion for so many people around the #Metoo movement.
The movie powerfully showed the courage and strength these women possessed to stand up against a system of sexual trespass and violence that has been normalized and accepted in Hollywood since its beginnings, that protects powerful men and abuses women.
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