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Friday, June 14, 2024

Movie review: 'She Said' does justice to Harvey Weinstein investigators, survivors

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 14 (UPI) — She Said, in theaters Friday, is a thorough depiction of the journalistic process akin to The Post and Spotlight. It struggles a bit to reconcile its subject matter in a Hollywood movie about Hollywood misdeeds, but it remains a worthwhile document of the Harvey Weinstein investigation.

New York Times reporters Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) and Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) investigate whether Weinstein is the producer to whom actors like Rose McGowan and Gwyneth Paltrow have alluded in stories of sexual misconduct. The film depicts their data gathering and attempts to convince survivors to go on the record.

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She Said shows how to conduct responsible journalism. Kantor and Twohey interview sources off the record just to learn who else they should talk to and what they should ask about.

They protect their sources, and understand the process it takes for someone to commit to taking the risk of going public. Twohey already saw, with her story on former President Donald Trump’s accusers, that the women endure threats and harassment even if they’re vindicated.

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It appears Twohey had to move her family due to threats, a subtle detail that is not overtly commented on in the film. A scene in which Twohey swears at guys making unwanted advances in public seems a tad more on the nose.

It is a relevant example to how men can harass women by not taking no for an answer on a less criminal scale. It seems out of place when the rest of the movie seems so well-documented about the timeline of a historic investigation.

In acting out Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s script, based on Twohey and Kantor’s article and book, Mulligan and Kazan show how reporters gain trust from vulnerable sources. As reporters, they have to balance compassion for asking someone about an assault with having to press for details and follow-up.

She Said also provides an example of women supporting women. Twohey advises Kantor on ways to conduct conversations in a compassionate way based on her experiences.

It takes the whole movie for two women to agree to go on record. That is a microcosm of the process.

Twohey and Kantor also spar with Weinstein’s attorneys, who try to discredit or stonewall them. It’s nice to see Times editor Dean Baquet at the time stand by his reporters and push back against Weinstein’s team.

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They still have to wait for an official response, even if they know it’s going to be a denial. They can set a reasonable deadline, but it’s the process investigative reporting takes.

The Weinstein tales sounds familiar from the articles and the documentary Untouchable, and they’re just as harrowing here.

One unique aspect of She Said is that many of the survivors are working actors. Ashley Judd plays herself and McGowan provides her voice.

The decision to play oneself and contribute to telling one’s own story is surely complicated for each actor. Because Weinstein allegedly sabotaged so many careers, it reinforces a bittersweet irony that one role actors could still play is in the story of how the injustice was exposed.

It also blurs lines when you’re watching Judd and hearing McGowan, while other sources are played by other well-known actors. It’s neither good nor bad, but it’s a phenomenon that’s unique to dealing with a Hollywood scandal.

Some survivors may have struggled with reliving the events. Some may have found it empowering. It was likely different for each individual who came to the decision to participate.

For the audience, it could be distracting to see the real Judd appear when Mulligan and Kazan play the reporters. Or, it could be validating the story by including primary sources.

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It’s entirely uncharted cinematic territory because the real politicians Woodward and Bernstein investigated did not play themselves in All the President’s Men. Weinstein is played by Mike Houston, and other famous voices are uncredited.

She Said gives Kantor and Twohey some fun moments in which they discuss which of them is more intimidating. It shows how they had to maintain a sense of humor covering such an intense story, often getting doors slammed in their faces.

The story is recent enough and public enough that most viewers can confirm most of what they’re watching actually happened. Some private moments with the reporters can be a bit much.

A Zoom call between Kantor and her daughter showing how the story impacts children lays it on a little thick, like the scene in which Twohey snaps at a guy in a bar. But, if that actually happened too, who’s to say?

She Said captures the complexity of covering a story like Weinstein. The film takes a unique approach, including actual subjects as themselves, and feels respectful to the facts and people behind the case.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Read more of his work in Entertainment.

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