By John Hanlon
The drama She Said, which has now arrived on Blu-Ray, begins with two high-profile figures facing charges of abuse. In the first few moments, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump responds to charges of assault at the tail end of the 2016 presidential campaign. A few months later, Fox News personality Bill O’ Reilly loses his high-profile position after facing accusations himself.
Those brief sequences reveal the fall-out from those two national headlines. The movie begins with the ending of those specific stories and the beginning of a new story: the story of two reporters who start looking into accusations against high-profile Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
It’s an interesting way to start the story. Not only do the brief scenes at the beginning set the stage for a time when #MeToo was starting a national conversation, they also show how these investigations sometimes end.
Viewers of this new film likely know how Weinstein’s story ends but Maria Shrader’s feature shows the arduous journey of the two New York Times reporters who helped bring the story to light. Those reporters were Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, played here by Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan respectively.
Unlike other news films that shy away from personal details about the reporters, Shrader embraces that element of the story. The connection between the two women isn’t just because of their shared interest in the story; it’s because they both struggled as young mothers. It’s that connection that lets viewers better appreciate the players involved here and adds a larger context to the story that unfolds.
Kantor and Twohey follow a number of leads throughout the story and the screenplay reveals how pain-staking the process of following a story can be. Many leads bring them to dead ends. Others bring them to off-the-record conversations that aren’t reportable. Only a few lead them to what they truly need: evidence and on-the-record interviews.
Throughout the investigation, the feature subtly shows the duo facing ethical questions about the best way to do their jobs. In one memorable scene, Kantor speaks to a man who doesn’t know about Weinstein’s alleged assault of his spouse. Kantor struggles with what she should and shouldn’t tell him: the right she has as a reporter to reveal things that his wife didn’t tell him about.
The screenplay by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, based on the book by Kantor and Twohey (which was inspired by their investigation), also hints at the feelings of hopelessness that can come from these investigations. At times, the reporters question if the story will ever come together and they also note that an investigation might ultimately not lead to any major consequences for Weinstein or his enablers (Twohey even admits that investigations into Trump didn’t prevent his election to the White House).
The story is very sensitive to all of these disparate emotions and it really works in capturing the painstaking process that these investigations oftentimes involve. At times though, there are a few moments when the screenplay seems to lose the subtlety that otherwise makes it stand out. In one particular scene, Twohey confronts a man in a bar who is seemingly hitting on her. It’s obvious why the scene is there but it lacks the impact and nuance that the rest of the movie has.
Although the film is about an investigation into Weinstein and his behavior, the character only appears onscreen briefly at the end. It’s as if he’s an untouchable figure who exists in a completely different world than the New York Times. It’s a choice that really shows how distant he feels to the reporters who spend their days (and sometimes nights) looking into his behavior and the pain he’s left in his wake.
Although the story of Weinstein’s behavior made national headlines, She Said really does a strong job showing how the investigation into him unfurled and how incredibly difficult it was to capture the story behind all of the headlines.
She Said is now available on Blu-Ray and DVD. It can be purchased by clicking here.
John Hanlon is a film and television critic. This article was published here with his permission. All rights reserved.