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She Said on Harvey Weinstein shows what resilient journalism looks like minus the drama

Maria Schader's She Said doesn’t have a heart-pounding finale, but it’s a steady look at the Harvey Weinstein investigation that will stay with you for a long time.

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Maria Schader’s latest release She Said is a nod to thorough journalism and the courage of sexual abuse survivors. It is a dramatisation of investigative journalism by The New York Times reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor who published an explosive series of articles about American film producer Harvey Weinstein. The 129-minute film is set against the backdrop of the election of Donald Trump as US President in 2016 and the rise of the #MeToo movement. It shows Twohey and Kantor — played by Carey Mulligan Zoe Kazan — making endless calls and knocking on multiple doors to investigate the truth.

On 5 October 2017, The New York Times brought to light what had only been whispered for years — Harvey Weinstein, one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, was a sexual predator. His films made millions at the box office, got Oscar nominations and wins too, but his offences were being covered up by his studio

Weinstein was convicted of rape and sexual assault in New York in 2020 and is currently on trial in Los Angeles and faces similar charges in London.

What resilient journalism looks like

She Said is a tribute to not just the resilience of the two reporters but also to the investigative journalism that brought down a serial offender. It inches close to the film Spotlight (2015) on The Boston Globe’s team that investigated the systemic sexual abuse of minors in Boston by Roman Catholic priests. The frustration of sources backing out, the sensitivity required to talk to the survivors, and of balancing personal lives affected by the consuming investigation, all find place in the moving film.

She Said also gives an insight into the personal lives of the two journalists saddled with responsibilities. How they balance their professional with their personal lives acknowledges the nitty-gritties and dedication that accompany good journalism. Twohey struggles with postpartum depression. Kantor has young children and is trying to follow up on sexual misconduct at workplace that involves Weinstein’s company Miramax. The rest is history — of not giving up.

The film also quietly, yet effectively, looks at the survivors who come forward. Its refusal to engage in sensationalism makes the impact quite powerful, and absence of the villain from the screen makes the horror of the women’s experiences more real. There is one confession when the survivor talks about the efforts she made to avoid sexual assault by Weinstein is a crushing, almost nightmarish moment. At no point does it show any moments of assault, and that is a step in the right direction when it comes to dealing with assault and trauma.


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A good cast

The performances by Mulligan and Kazan echo the restraint embedded in the film. They stick to their roles without embellishments, balancing work and personal life and also the disparate group of survivors spanning different age groups, making notes, asking questions, and refusing to give up.

Patricia Clarkson plays editor Rebecca Corbett, while Andre Braugher plays executive editor Dean Baquet in a role very different from his immensely popular stint in Netflix’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine. The two excel in their roles as the crucial systemic support that aids the investigations to unfold. Corbett’s push and Baquet’s endless interactions with Weinstein’s legal team are executed without a miss by the two actors.

Two confessions that stand out are that of actress Ashley Judd, who plays herself and Jennifer Ehle who plays Laura Madden, a one-time Miramax executive. Judd had gone on record and helped the two journalists at a crucial moment in the investigation, and Madden’s statement was also a breakthrough. Ehle’s performance as a woman looking back at her assault as a 22-year-old and deciding that she wants to make the world better for her children is hard-hitting.

She Said doesn’t have a gripping, heart-pounding, suspense-building finale, but it’s a steady and clinical look at the Harvey Weinstein investigation. There are no moments of racing against time, except for the possibility towards the end that someone else might break the story first. The film chooses empathy and sincerity over sharpness, and that makes it lose some edge. But in the end, it is also a movie that will stay with you for a long time.

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Maria Schader’s latest release She Said is a nod to thorough journalism and the courage of sexual abuse survivors. It is a dramatisation of investigative journalism by The New York Times reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor who published an explosive series of articles...She Said on Harvey Weinstein shows what resilient journalism looks like minus the drama