Miramax honcho and Hollywood heel Harvey Weinstein was finally brought down thanks a 2017 New York Times story by journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, and the story of their investigation is told in matter-of-fact and often engrossing fashion in She Said, which opens in Prague cinemas today after premiering at the New York Film Festival last month.
While Weinstein’s casting couch tactics were an open secret in the film industry for decades, getting actresses and employees to go on the record and face the wrath of a major film studio was no easy task. But following the New York Times story (and another by Ronan Farrow in the New Yorker), a total of 107 women have now come forward with accusations against the former producer (Wikipedia keeps a helpful running tab).
Kantor and Twohey’s story helped kick off the #metoo movement, while Weinstein was handed a 23-year sentence in New York in 2020 and additional investigations continue years later. As She Said often alludes to, however, while Weinstein himself has been exposed, the system that allowed him to stay in power for decades has largely gone unpunished.
She Said stars Zoe Kazan as Kantor and Carey Mulligan as Twohey, who are turned onto the Weinstein case after an audio recording of the producer abusing Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez was made public and actress Rose McGowan alluded to her own experiences with the Miramax head. Following settlements and NDAs, however, neither would speak to the Times.
But Kantor and Twohey soon realize these cases are just the tip of an iceberg, and begin a months-long investigation that leads them down a rabbit hole of allegations. Ultimately, they turn up three names that might be willing to come forward: former assistants who suffered abuse at the hands of Weinstein in the 1990s.
They include Laura Madden (Jennifer Ehle), who never signed an NDA with Miramax, and Rowena Chiu (Angela Yeoh) and Zelda Perkins (Samantha Morton), whose confrontation with Weinstein at the Venice Film Festival in 1998 turned some heads.
Morton has just a single scene in She Said, but steals the entire film as she recounts Perkins’ story: a former associate who stood her own against Weinstein, she broke down when Chiu came to her in tears following an attempted rape. Perkins sacrificed her career to help put an end to Weinstein’s practices, working with Miramax to bring change, only to stand by for the next two decades as more allegations swirled, silenced by the terms of her settlement.
The portrayal of both Kantor and Twohey is nicely nuanced and subtly presented; both are young mothers struggling with different aspects of motherhood, who sacrifice time spent with their young daughters in order to help create a better world for them to live in.
The rest of the Times newsroom in She Said, however, is improbably devoid of drama, with editors Dean Baquet (Andre Braugher) and Rebecca Corbett (Patricia Clarkson) so unbelievably supportive we begin to question their motives. Their sanitized department almost seems more like an Apple Store, though it’s admittedly a pleasure to watch Braugher’s no-nonsense character confront Weinstein and his lawyers on the phone.
From a script by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, based on Kantor and Twohey’s original article and later book, She Said was directed by Maria Schrader (I’m Your Man) herself a young actress in the 1990s who may not have had personal experience with Weinstein, but most likely came across others like him.
Schrader’s presentation of She Said is remarkably restrained, and the film never comes across diatribe despite the subject matter. The film allows the victims, or rather, actresses portraying the victims, to speak for themselves, and the matter-of-fact presentation helps their stories hit even harder.