She Said movie review: A tense and gripping account of how two journalists and victims brought down Harvey Weinstein

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She said (15A, 129min)

As I write, former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein is on trial in Los Angeles on 11 counts of sexual assault and rape, in addition to the two crimes he was convicted of in 2020.

And at the start of the current trial, the judge warned the jurors that, in the interest of a fair trial, they must under no circumstances watch the upcoming feature film, She says.

Weinstein never actually appears in Maria Schrader’s cool, measured drama, or rather, only his bullish back and head: Most of the time we just hear his voice, barking at the phone during conference calls to The New York Times as he tries to bully the newspaper into not publishing a highly inflammatory story.

Bullying propelled Weinstein, to the boardrooms of major studios and to the stage of the Kodak Theater for numerous Oscar triumphs.

But thanks to the efforts of two journalists and the bravery of some of his victims, Weinstein’s empire came crashing down in 2018 when he was arrested and charged with rape.

Weinstein was a big fish and when we first met New York Times journalists Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) and Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan), they debate the merits of pursuing such a problematic story.

Suspecting a tweet from actor Rose McGowan is a reference to potential wrongdoing by Weinstein, Kantor wants her bosses to let her pursue the story.

Twohey, who will become his investigative partner, is initially skeptical. “Is this,” she wonders, “the best use of our time? She’s just spent months investigating several credible reports of Donald Trump’s sexual abuse (who can also be heard roaring on the phone, threatening all sorts of litigation), which has done nothing to stop her march to the House. White.

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Twohey and Kantor hunt down Weinstein victim

Twohey and Kantor hunt down Weinstein victim

Powerful men have been getting away with this stuff since time immemorial: will the Weinstein case be any different?

Kantor, however, believes Weinstein could be a test case, a battering ram for the bastion of men’s rights. “If it can happen to actresses in Hollywood,” she said, “who else does it happen to?”

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Their story will be to get some of Weinstein’s victims to talk, which is no easy task. Most have signed non-disclosure agreements, others are just terrified. “How did you find me?” a woman asks when Twohey carries her, looking nervously past the reporter on the street.

Eventually, with incredible patience and determination, they will persuade some of the victims to register.

None of the attacks are directly represented: they are rather told retrospectively by the women themselves, in particular by the Irish Laura Madden (Jennifer Ehle) and Zelda Perkins (Samantha Morton).

Madden recalls how she first met Weinstein on a movie set in Ireland, where she was working as a runner. He had been asked to bring scripts to his room, where he appeared in a bathrobe, asked for a massage, and then proceeded to assault her.

She describes her confusion and how she only realized what had happened after the fact, so cunningly did Weinstein use raw power and social niceties.

And the pattern is familiar: Morton is terrifyingly intense as Perkins, a former Miramax employee who points Kantor in the right direction. As a litany of potential victims surface, Twohey and Kantor must work hard to control and protect their story.

Maria Schrader’s film, written by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, will inevitably be compared to the 1976 conspiracy classic, All the President’s Men.

Like this movie She says quietly celebrates the numbing grind and attention to fine detail needed to tackle the powerful print. But the tone of this film is very different: no whispered assignments in parking lots or rowdy macho editors.

As this film shows, The New York Times is a silent, glassy temple where no one gets drunk or shouts “print that baby!”.

And when Twohey and Kantor’s story is finally ready, we get no rolling press photos: instead, the editorial staff hover over a computer, staring at a virtual button labeled “print.”

But She says is tense and gripping in its own way, its mood is calmer because its reporters and most of their sources are women.

And Mulligan and Kantor are excellent as Twohey and Kantor, two driven young women who can easily imagine the horrors the victims have been through and never push them too hard for the sake of their story.

They are ready to sit and wait.

She Said is in theaters nationwide starting Friday, November 25.

Rating: five stars

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