Review: She Said (2022)

Journalism dramas are a much maligned and obtuse segment of film, with varying degrees of success (see: Bombshell, The Post, The French Dispatch).

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Journalism dramas are a much maligned and obtuse segment of film, with varying degrees of success (see: Bombshell, The Post, The French Dispatch). But not since Spotlight has a film tried to address its key real-life villain(s) and tried to make a commentary on culture as a whole as She Said.

Based on the reporting of uncovering Harvey Weinstein’s sexual abuse in Hollywood, this biographical film centers on two remarkable women as they try to break the story, condense years of abuse into one groundbreaking narrative, and deal with their own personal issues. Jodi Kanto (Zoe Kazan) and Meghan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) first start with a single account of abuse and soon are entwined in the lives of those who were damaged by this predator.

The biggest challenge with the film is that after hordes of newspaper stories, documentaries, podcasts, books, and more, people are generally knowledgeable about the Weinstein case. However, that also allows the main characters to ground the film and have their own internal lives feel fresh and new. Both mothers to young children and husbands who are homemakers, we see the toll of a subject such as this affect these real-life people and still admire their perseverance in getting it done. Twohey specifically struggles with postpartum depression and Mulligan does a solid job relating this to the overall narrative.

Director Maria Schrader doesn’t shy away from how fortunate the newspaper is in pursuing a story of this magnitude for months and months, and how these two women are able to commit to their work, and in doing so provide valuable voices to the abused – assistants, actresses and many in between – whose bravery allowed Kanto and Twohey to get the job done. 

As mentioned, Mulligan is the star of the two women, her pathos and bravery wavering throughout the story. Kazan is almost as solid, if not let down by the writing and her characterization. Rounding out the paper’s staff is Patricia Clarkson, a straight-talking editor, and Andre Braugher as another news writer who is quick to defend the paper with its battles with Weinstein himself.

Samantha Morton deserves an Oscar nomination for one captivating scene as a former assistant, as does Jennifer Ehle as a woman still coming to terms with the impact it made on her life. Ashley Judd plays herself as a woman who is among the first to go on the record, speaking of her own abuse and industry shunning. Their performances do more for the understanding and exposing of rape culture than any other seen on film to date.

As usual, comparisons with All The Presidents Men will be made, but in a lot of ways this feels like an update of that. With the changing nature of journalism as a profession, She Said feels true to the industry at this time. However, it also backfires in its delivery of the struggles with finding sources, convincing them to go on the record, editing pieces, and then finally letting the world hear the story.

The main challenge is that She Said needs to excite the audience and with a singular villain, at times it feels too easy and with a conclusion that is known from the outset. There are new elements of the story that do supplement what we already know, but ultimately it feels a little self-indulgent at times as if to say that the film industry has learned its lesson and is so self-aware as to memorialize it in this film. There is power in the news story about Weinstein, and the book about writing the piece from its key journalists. But as a film, it doesn’t sing or connect in a better way than it could.


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