She Said — a matter of fact film that could win an Oscar

'She Said' one of the first big Oscar contenders released this year - a great time of year for movies as we get all the films the studios have saved to be released just as awards seasons begins.

She Said has all the makings of an awards contender. It is based on a best selling novel, about a timely event with some big name stars. The film is adapted from the book of the same name. It follows the two journalists, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, who wrote the first substantial story about the sexual assault and harassment accusations against film producer Harvey Weinstein.

It’s a tough sell as a topic, as not only is it a horrible subject but we know the result. Weinstein is currently in jail. So how do you introduce tension in a film when the outcome is already public knowledge? Well this is really the story of how the journalists convinced women and co workers of Weinstein to come forward and put their names on a story.

Director Maria Schrader, does a good job of showing the slow methodical work required to break a story like this. The follow up interviews, the door-stepping and the difficulties with editors, all the struggles of an investigative journalist are here. Schrader also takes time to show the personal side of the two journalists.

Both young mothers naturally have a hard time with how all consuming it becomes taking on a story like this. Megan Twohey is a new mother and is struggling with her first baby but very confident in her abilities as a journalist. Jodie Kantor is more settled in her personal life but is not as confident in her reporting.

Harvey Weinstein is mostly off screen with the exception of a few phone calls. The director did say she didn’t want the film to feature him, she wanted the film to be about the journalists. I think this is the right call, but it could have been interesting to see how his camp was reacting to the news being leaked.

The real highpoint of the film is a short cameo from Samatha Morton who plays one of Weinstein's victims from the 90s. It’s absolute powerhouse performance from Morton, who is one of the best actors working today. A good bit of trivia is the shortest screen time for the winner of an Oscar is Beatrice Straight for five minutes and forty seconds in Network in 1977. Great movie.

Morton is probably just over that but she is close, and I think she’ll be nominated for her short role. She could well win too.The two journalists are played by Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan. Both are excellent in fairly straight forward parts. They could have been meatier roles but I appreciated the lack of corny speeches and idealised dialogue (with the exception of one scene where Twohey scolds a drunk guy in a bar, which felt a little on the nose to me ).

Screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz does a great job with the double speak of trying to interview a source who doesn’t want to say outright what she or he knows, she also must have had great fun putting together the dialogue of Weinstein’s lawyers who admit to some wrongdoing but draw the line at assault.

His careful lawyer speak is very well put together. A few times he says Harvey is taking some time out to “work on himself” which draws a few laughs from the audience. We have become so familiar with the apology vocabulary of today.

I dont think this is the best film about the Me Too movement or about sexual harassment in the work place. There is a film that came out in 2020 called ’The Assistant’ which doesn’t name Weinstein but tells a story similar very well. David Mamet also tackled the subject brilliantly on stage with John Malkovich playing a Weinstein cypher in Bitter Wheat.

But as I said this film isn’t about Weinstein, but about the story that brought him down and it does a fine job showing us that. What I really liked about She Said was the calm, matter of fact, telling of the story. It is tackling a horrible subject and it’s a story told with empathy but it is not full of Hollywood cliches, it’s also not patting itself on the back. Let’s remember the film is coming from the industry that protected Weinstein. So its lack of sentimentality might mean it doesn’t work for some people, but it worked for me.


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