‘She Said’: A Look at the Fall of a Violent Empire (REVIEW)

Female pain takes the front seat in She Said, a film about Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey‘s 2017 New York Times article that exposed Harvey Weinstein’s reign of intimidation and sexual aggression. I will be one to admit that the film was inspiring. Directed by Maria Schrader, She Said is an investigative drama; Rebecca Lenkiewicz penned the screenplay. And although the film is about the Times article, it is more directly based on Kantor and Twohey’s 2019 book of the same name. The Times‘ two lead journalists broke the story that helped spark the #MeToo movement. 

When it comes to She Said, it’s comforting to see how the film proves that having women present in a professional space can change the dynamic when it comes to bringing a story to light. She Said often makes it clear that while our protagonists are in fact two white women attempting to take down “the man,” the abuse and violence they are determined to expose do not discriminate. Sexual harassment and assault do not stop at gender, race, or cultural background. The film tries its best to demonstrate how intersectional feminism should be upheld and prioritized.

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Carey Mulligan as Megan Twohey and Zoe Kazan as Jodi Kantor in She Said. (COURTESY: Universal Pictures)

She Said is another addition to Plan B Entertainment’s production repertoire made in collaboration with Annapurna Pictures. Plan B, with Brad Pitt at the helm, is also pushing another feminist piece this year, Sarah Polley’s Women Talking (2022). Many might try to pit the two films against each other and hold them under a magnifying glass to see whether they work or not. Regardless, it’s impressive to see two films that tackle abuse at the hands of toxic masculinity and disadvantageous power dynamics released around the same time. However, it is concerning that both films dealing with such subject matter came about in part because a man who has recently been accused of abusing not only his wife but his children.

It all circles back to the main point She Said drives home throughout its 129-minute runtime. Yes, the film does fall short when it comes to its protagonists. There is barely any character development for Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) and Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) on a personal level. We mostly see how the weight of their investigation disturbs their routine as mothers and wives. But they’re willing to continue on with determination because of what it would mean for them to come out of this battle victorious.

Many of the She Said‘s characters are simply people who help push the plot forward. While there are attempts at making them multi-dimensional, such as exploring Twohey’s postpartum depression, these attempts aren’t the focus of the film. Nor should they draw much attention. The main focus, which it shares with the Times article, is exposed the wrongdoings taking place within Hollywood and its outreach abroad. In this regard, She Said offers up standout performances from the likes of Jennifer Ehle as Laura Madden and Samantha Morton as Zelda Perkins. It is poignant, respectful, and deliberate in its characterization of investigative journalism. It stands for advocating for the truth with women at the center of it all. 

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Wesley Holloway as Hywel Madden, Jennifer Ehle as Laura Madden, and Justine Colan as Iris Madden in She Said. (COURTESY: Universal Pictures)

Additionally, where Twohey’s postpartum depression is concerned, She Said works as a contemporary noir unflinching about painting a portrait of female pain, suffering, and fear in all their forms. While this aspect of Mulligan’s character doesn’t have much influence on She Said‘s overall story, it’s nonetheless refreshing to be able to see women as they are and as they experience their lives. She Said‘s moments of humanity might seem superficial to some – but they are honest.

This film doesn’t filter its women to make them more appealing. Neither does it aspire or strive to make its plot more digestible for the audience. The finished product is most likely the only way She Said could have been adapted: as a matter-of-fact, well-made film with zero room for error. Ultimately, She Said is an honest depiction of how much work goes into shattering a system so determined to protect its abusers.

Rating: 8/10

She Said had its world premiere at the 60th New York Film Festival on October 13, 2022. It is set to release in theaters on November 18, 2022. The film is directed by Maria Schrader and stars Carey Mulligan, Zoe Kazan, Patricia Clarkson, Andre Braugher, Jennifer Ehle, and Samantha Morton.

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