Plot: “New York Times reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor break one of the most important stories in a generation – a story that helped ignite a movement and shattered decades of silence around the subject of sexual assault in Hollywood.” -IMDB
Review: I am biased. I have a bachelor’s degree in broadcast communications and grew up idolizing the lions of the field. I also freely admit that I can over romanticize films where investigative journalism is the subject. With that out of the way, let’s review!
Some of my favorite movies are All the President’s Men, Spotlight, and The Post. In my estimation, these films are nearly perfect. I would add “She Said” to that mix. The story it tells about the work to expose Harvey Weinstein is harrowing; truthful about the dead ends, respectful of the dedication, and honors the bravery of the women who came forward.
Films such as this all share the same monumental challenge. We as the audience know how this story will end. As filmmakers, how do you pull back the curtain compellingly that stays truthful to the process, honors those doing the work, injects enough drama to keep people hooked, and tells an honest story? She Said rises to meet these challenges with a story that instantly enthralls and never lets go.
At the end of this story, a culture of sexual harassment and assault, reaching from Hollywood to Wall Street and every industry in between, meets the light. While this story centers on the cruelty of Harvey Weinstein, the impact of the original New York Times article spilled over and exposed the Harveys of the world. As an audience, we understand the impact of the story, but what about those other challenges facing a story such as this?
Brilliant performances from Carey Mulligan as Megan Twohey and Zoe Kazan as Jodi Kantor anchor this film. Watching their performances, it was apparent to me that both actresses had done their homework. They spent time with reporters and had a solid grasp of the long game that is this type of reporting.
This film is also cognizant of the toll of bringing truth to the light. It never loses sight of the bravery it took for women to come forward. It also honors those who couldn’t truthfully tell their story for fear of retaliation or harm.
Next, this film is honest about the work. Investigative journalism is a profession mired in dead ends. A reporter’s ability to hold a complex web of details together defines the work. As does their ability to build a case, work with sources, and the talent needed to pull everything together in a story that readers can easily digest. I think this film is also truthful about competition and the desire to break a story first.
In the end, great journalism takes dedication. In almost every scene of this movie, the filmmakers honor that dedication. But they also honor the stakes. Reporters are not robots. A story such as this can take its toll and is not without consequences. Both Mulligan and Kazan place us firmly in the shoes of the reporters who broke this story. Their setbacks will be yours, as will their heartbreak. This is necessary for us to fully appreciate when everything falls into place and hitting “publish” is all that remains.
This story follows a familiar procedure and formula. Some might see that as a strike against this film. I don’t. The formula works well for me, because of the truths exposed along the way. Some other future film might need to break the mold, but the tried-and-true method of storytelling works well here.
In closing, I see how audiences reacted to this film. Box office numbers don’t lie. They also tell a story. People may be over the #MeToo story, but the impact of the movement is still making waves. I think it is important to understand how we got here in order to chart a different path.
Be good to each other,
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