A bottomless pool of post-Weinstein dramas also sprouted as a result. In movies, there's The Assistant and Promising Young Woman. In TV: Dark Money and The Loudest Voice. In literature: My Dark Vanessa. With She Said, director Maria Schrader and writer Rebecca Lenkiewicz compete with projects catalysed by the real-life story they’re telling. Thankfully, this is a fascinating if familiar account of the events behind Twohey and Kantor’s investigation.
Left to right: Zoe Kazan, Carey Mulligan, Andrew Braugher, and Patricia Clarkson as Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey, Rebecca Corbett and Dean Baquet. Photo: Universal
Much in the mundane office spirit of Tom McCarthy’s Oscar-winning Spotlight, Schrader scales back style in favour of blunt and brilliant filmmaking. There are few visual metaphors here. And like Spotlight, the well-known actors dissolve seamlessly into the real people.
Carey Mulligan delivers a burning bite – similar to her role in Promising Young Woman, but subtler – with She Said opening on Megan covering Donald Trump’s pre-election assault allegations. Zoe Kazan (in perhaps her biggest role to date) holds her own as the meticulous and sympathetic Jodi, who's a fitting contrast to Megan’s more outspoken nature.
Megan and Jodi are both mothers, the former struggling with postpartum depression, and the investigation becomes part of the juggling act. With these difficult and personal snapshots, you wonder if a male filmmaker would've captured them with as much empathy and realism. The same goes for the banality of evil infusing the rape and death threats that Megan receives – a moment passes, then she moves on. Schrader and Lenkiewicz eradicate sensationalism.
Samantha Morton as Zelda Perkins. Photo: Universal
The interviews with victims and survivors like Ashley Judd (playing herself), Rose McGowan (Keilly McQuail), Laura Madden (Jennifer Ehle), Zelda Perkins (Samantha Morton) and Rowena Chiu (Angela Yeoh) are already lodged into the collective memory. But it's still chilling to hear and watch these vulnerable stories recounted in cafés and over the phone.
Out of respect, the film doesn't show the assaults taking place. Instead, Natasha Braier's camera lingers in haunting hotel corridors. It enters the bedrooms, but only with static shots of shoes, underwear, and a dressing gown like photographs empty of people, empty of humanity. These visuals cut deepest when a real recording of Weinstein and model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez plays over one such corridor.
Filling these punctuating moments of emptiness are Megan, Jodi, their editors Rebecca Corbett (Patricia Clarkson) and Dean Baquet (Andrew Braugher), as well as the women affected. They display the kind of courage, conviction and honour that find a sharp point of light in a dark world.
Swerving from many other journo-dramas, Lenkiewicz injects casual camaraderie between the two leads – sharing laughs and smiles and stories, miles away from the classic sternness of All the President’s Men. These scenes can feel laboured at times (with one hug too many), but considering the severity of the story, it’s a relief to be sprinkled with lighter moments.
In spite of these women’s vulnerability in the face of such horrific male power, She Said builds their resilience, their armour. The film isn’t incendiary enough, but offers a deep and devastating depiction of a cultural shift that – you hope, you plead – will last.
She Said will be in UK cinemas on Friday 25 November.
|What||She Said movie review|
25 Nov 22 – 25 Nov 23, IN CINEMAS
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