MOVIES about investigative journalism that became acclaimed films include “All the President’s Men” (about the Watergate Scandal), “Spotlight” (about priests who are child molesters), and “The Post” (about the Pentagon Papers.)
Now comes “She Said”, about the expose on a big Hollywood producer’s sexual abuses. It is based on the 2019 book by Pulitzer prize winning New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, which began the Me Too movement against sexual harrassment across the globe.
The film is directed by Maria Schrader, who won the Emmy for the mini-series “Unorthodox” which we’ve also reviewed here. It’s an enlightening procedural about how the two journalists dedicated themselves to expose the truth about a sexual predator who has gotten away with his crimes for so long because of power structures that even protected him instead of bringing him to justice.
The film starts with a flashback scene in 1992 in Ireland. We see a young woman joining the shooting of a film being shot there on location. In the next scene, we see her running in the street, looking so terribly upset. Then the film jumps to New York City in 2016.
We meet writers (Zoe Kazan, “The Big Sick”) and Megan (Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman”) interviewing women sexually harrassed by then presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Despite the accusations against him, Trump still won. Jodi later hears about Australian actress Rose McGowan being raped by producer Harvey Weinstein. Rose won’t speak at first, but much later on, calls her back and describes how Weinstein sexually assaulted her in a hotel.
Other actresses who admit they were abused by Weinstein are Ashley Judd and Gwyneth Paltrow, but they don’t want to be named. Jodi then teams up with Megan and they patiently tracked down other women victimized by Weinstein.
They also get to interview officers of Miramax, where Weinstein works, about pay offs made to the women he molested to silence them. We learn that the young woman shown running at the start of the film is Laura Madden, and she was running because Weinstein abused her.
Now married (played by Jennifer Ehle), she’s about to have surgery for the big C. At first, she refused to talk to Jodi. But when a lackey of Weinstein called her up to stop her from speaking to reporters, she changes her mind and calls up Jodi to share her own harrowing experience with the sexual predator.
Ashley Judd later agrees to be named in the article about Weinstein and she later appears in the movie as herself. The article came out on October 5, 2017 and as a result, 82 women later surfaced to share how Weinstein also abused them. The abuser is now serving a jail sentence for rape and sexual assault in New York and he is facing more cases in Los Angeles and in London.
As we watched the film’s ending, we can’t help but cry, knowing that justice has finally been served and we felt so sad for all his victims. The film is a tribute to dedicated journalism and to the two investigative reporters who doggedly pursued the case.
Also to be commended is the writer of the screenplay, Rebecca Lenkiewicz, who did it in a very compelling way. She must have sifted through a voluminous wealth of materials that include interviews, court cases, nondisclosure agreements, memos, letters, etc. to adapt the materials for the big screen in a way that feels as exhaustive, thorough and also compassionate with the victims.
In this era of fake news, “She Said” tells us that there are still responsible journalists who we can trust. The film is also admirable in that it presents the material in a very sober way.
Even scenes that can be sensationalized to make the film a more exciting watch are toned down, like a black car that follows Jodi in the street and Megan screaming at a man who is obviously threatening her in a bar. This shows the pressure that comes up with being a devoted journalist.
The movie also shows Jodi and Megan’s private lives as a wife and mother. It’s good they both have very supportive husbands, specially in the case of Megan when she experiences post partum depression after giving birth to their baby.
Jodi has two daughters and their is a touching scene when her eldest daughter inquires about her job and asks her about what rape is. These scenes help us gain more knowledge about the journalists beyond their work, presenting them as real persons themselves and not just two bigger than life heroines pursuing a villainous rapist. Both Mulligan and Kazan are splendid in their respective roles, and also Jennifer Ehle, Samantha Morton and Ashley Judd as herself. They all fought against the abuse of authority by bullies in power.