She Said review – breaking the male silence around Harvey Weinstein

Admirably straightforward drama follows two of the reporters who cut through the defences around the apparently invulnerable producer

The title takes the second half of the famous phrase habitually used to dismiss rape allegations as hearsay – “he said, she said” – and in doing so restores the importance of women’s testimony. This is the story of the two New York Times reporters, Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, and their battle to write the story about the now disgraced and imprisoned movie producer Harvey Weinstein and his decades-long practice of intimidation, harassment and rape of young female actors and junior staff, hushing them up with threats and NDA payoffs, enabled by a vast male superstructure of silence. It is adapted by Rebecca Lenkiewicz from the journalists’ book of the same title and directed by Maria Schrader.

The journalists’ plan was to try for a number of accusers going public at once – or failing that, to get one prominent survivor on the record and count on others coming forward; this was the foundation of the #MeToo strategy. Carey Mulligan plays Twohey and Zoe Kazan plays Kantor, and theirs is a very 21st-century workplace: as well as their stressful work, Twohey and Kantor have to deal with motherhood, babies and exhaustion, which never worried Woodward and Bernstein. But as life is messy and complicated, someone else is working on the same story: Ronan Farrow for the New Yorker, whose work is mentioned rather cursorily in this movie. Perhaps his good-faith contribution could have been acknowledged with a bit more generosity?

There are some great small roles: Samantha Morton is Weinstein’s former assistant Zelda Perkins and Jennifer Ehle is his former employee Laura Madden, while Ashley Judd plays herself. Patricia Clarkson is NYT editor Rebecca Corbett and Andre Braugher is executive editor Dean Baquet. As for the enemy, Weinstein is never seen full-on, but his oleaginous lawyer is nicely played by Peter Friedman: very similar to his role as Logan Roy’s salaryman-consigliere in TV’s Succession.

As ever with films about newspapers, the challenge is to make ordinary reporting work look interesting, and very often Twohey and Kantor are shown talking to people on their mobiles while striding through the busy Manhattan streets, as opposed to sitting at their desks taking notes. But the film coolly conveys the awakening-from-denial horror that their investigation spreads through the film industry and I admire the way it takes the macho cliched nonsense out of journalism in movies: these are not boozy guys being adorable and chaotic, but smart, persistent people doggedly doing their job.

• She Said is released on 25 November in cinemas.

Contributor

Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

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