After headlining a discussion at Northwestern’s McCormick Foundation Center on Oct. 24, investigative reporters Jodi Kantor and Meghan Twohey offered a free screening of the upcoming film She Said, which is based on their initial coverage of film producer Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct.
Their original New York Times article, “Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades,” shot the #MeToo movement into mainstream media. Many women started to share stories of abuse on social media in floods. Despite this phenomenon following the coverage, the film She Said never touches on the article’s impact. Instead, it follows the gruesome development of the investigation, from unanswered phone calls and anonymous threats to survivors with a crippling fear of speaking out.
It all feels very grounded for a movie about taking down a film industry giant. The story weaves between various scenes of Kantor and Twohey’s personal and home lives. Twohey’s (Carey Mulligan) postpartum depression is interwoven with her struggles with being a woman in a violently sexist society in a beautifully intricate depiction of womanhood. Mulligan, an Oscar-nominated actress, drives the emotional moments of the movie and unsurprisingly captivates the audience’s attention. The way her eyes express Twohey’s buried anger had me convinced she could take on Weinstein one-on-one.
Zoe Kazan’s performance as Jodi Kantor, however, was unexpectedly grandiose. Kazan, who can sometimes fade into the background in other roles due to her timid demeanor, is clearly emotionally invested in the story. Much like the real-life Kantor, she barges into the newsroom ready to make an impact.
But despite these personal insights, the movie never feels like their biopic. The script makes it very clear that this story, while propelled by Twohey and Kantor, is much bigger than them– than any of us. The film’s emotional core lies with the witnesses. Much of the film depicts Kantor and Twohey sitting down with countless survivors and associates of Weinstein. Despite playing completely different roles in the investigation, the two sides are bound by their collective fear of the man upstairs.
Some of the witnesses, namely actress Ashley Judd (who plays herself in the film) and Miramax employee Rowena Chiu (Angela Yeoh), had already been blacklisted by Weinstein and were struggling to find work. But their concerns went beyond just finances– these women were scared for their lives. The tension in the lines and the actresses' deliveries, heightened by Nicholas Britell’s eerie score, depicts Weinstein’s tight grip on every inch of the film industry. The stakes are especially evident when Laura Madden (Jennifer Ehle) steps into the light. She is a survivor and former Miramax employee, but she’s also a mom from Wales battling breast cancer.
Journalism films rarely center the stories of survivors the way She Said does. The climax of the movie is almost entirely attributed to Madden and Judd. This dedication to giving credit where credit is due sets this film apart from other journalism films such as The Post or Spotlight. The level of graphic detail in the women’s testimonies and the specificity in Kantor and Twohey’s evidence could pass as part of a documentary.
During their Q&A at Northwestern on Oct. 24, Twohey talked about her involvement in the movie and how her and Kantor’s book served as a blueprint for the film’s script.
“[The producers] consulted with us the whole time,” Twohey said. “The screenwriter came into our homes and had meals with us. She wanted to know questions not just about the work but about our lives.”
With awards season on the horizon, She Said is drawing buzz for potential nominations. The film made both Variety and the Los Angeles Times Oscars shortlist for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Academy Awards nominations will be announced on January 24th, but for now, celebrate the release of She Said, arriving in US theaters on November 18th.