“She Said” is a film about sexual assault without a single assault scene.
Telling the true story behind the viral New York Times article that revealed sexual assault allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein, the film follows co-writers Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey on their months-long quest to uncover evidence and verify decades of abuse. Directed by Maria Schrader, “She Said” is based on Kantor and Twohey’s 2019 book, “She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement,” which chronicles the same investigation.
Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan fearlessly propel the film forward, playing the article’s co-writers, embodying the lead roles of intrepid reporters with ease and charm. The pair has effortless chemistry as coworkers-turned-friends, allowing the viewer to become quickly immersed in the investigation.
The plot spans several decades and tells many stories, but with a runtime of two hours and nine minutes, “She Said” doesn’t get lost in the details. Twohey and Kantor’s investigation serves as its baseline, with occasional flashbacks sprinkled in between.
The film doesn’t show scenes of assault on screen, instead showing the survivors as they recount their experiences in interviews with Twohey and Kantor. Weinstein also isn’t shown in the flashback scenes, only appearing briefly during a meeting with the Times near the end of the film. Even then, his face is obscured as the camera follows the reporters; in one of the film’s most memorable shots, the camera slowly zooms into Twohey’s face, her expression indescribable as the meeting’s dialogue fades out.
“She Said” is a moving and compassionate account of the widespread culture of sexual assault told by the women who experience it, as well as those who dedicate their lives to uncovering it. The film expertly portrays the solidarity shared between the women behind the article, as well as those they interview. Twohey and Kantor bond amidst the emotional toll of their work, as well as over their experiences with postpartum depression.
The cast as a whole excels with the aid of creative framing and engaging dialogue. With Andre Braugher ’84 at its helm, the film’s newsroom evokes a thrilling, fast-paced collaborative atmosphere. Known for his starring role in “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” Braugher strikes an impressive balance between drama and comedy as New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet.
However, some have criticized the involvement of executive producer Brad Pitt, who has his own accusations of domestic violence. Pitt also allegedly continued to work on Weinstein’s projects after being informed first-hand of Weinstein’s abuse of Pitt’s former girlfriend Gwyneth Paltrow and ex-wife Angelina Jolie. Pitt’s involvement undoubtedly exemplifies the very culture of abuse that “She Said” aims to call out.
Members of the cast playing those interviewed for the article give sensitive, impactful performances, delivering monologues that range from comedic to heart-breaking. In these interviews, we see most clearly the many individual moments of courage that made the article possible. Each scene is a testament to the countless people who resisted decades of systemic efforts to keep them quiet. Notably, the gripping testimonies of Jennifer Ehle as Laura Madden and Samantha Morton as Zelda Perkins, a former employee of Weinstein’s production company Miramax, were unforgettable.
The intensity of the film’s material is broken up by moments of levity as we see glimpses into the joy and community that survivors have found in the present day. However, I was left wanting more of the survivors’ stories. Even though those telling their stories gave incredible performances during their screen time, the focus ultimately rested on the daily lives of reporters Twohey and Kantor. Poignant scenes of survivors with their families were fleeting, left behind in favor of a resolution centering on the article and its authors.
Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective thoughts, opinions and critiques.