‘She Said’ review: Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan star as New York Times reporters who helped break Harvey Weinstein story



CNN

The hard work of journalism doesn’t always translate easily to the screen, a problem heightened as in-your-face doors have been supplanted by cell phone hangups and ignored messages. Still, “She Said” joins a long tradition of films about dogged journalists who uncover injustice and, in this case, help spark a radical movement.

The film is adapted from the book by New York Times reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, which might explain why Ronan Farrow’s work is mentioned but shortened considerably. Not only did Farrow get there first, but he had to fight with NBC News management before finally publishing in the New Yorker. It’s a timely reminder to remember who’s telling the story.

That aside, the heart of “She Said,” which begins with Twohey (Carey Mulligan) reporting on Donald Trump, centers on his collaboration with Kantor (Zoe Kazan) to expose Harvey’s predatory behavior Weinstein. While the reporters themselves don’t show much personality, the film hums with the fear and apprehension of the women who spoke out, often after much prodding, pleading and soul-searching.

Oscar winner “Spotlight” is the most recent example of this particular genre, but “She Said” owes a stronger debt to “All the President’s Men,” only with a female-centric point of view as opposed to editorial meetings full of white boys in white shirts. The two journalists are also shown trying to balance their home lives with the all-consuming nature of work, illustrating all those weekend phone calls and plane flights that cut into family time.

Working from a script by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, director Maria Schrader has chosen not to show Weinstein other than a vague glimpse, but his presence is felt through audio tapes and phone calls. The fact that his second trial is currently underway in Los Angeles adds to the timeliness of the film’s release, but it’s a fitting decision that keeps the focus on the reporters and the victims.

Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan play New York Times reporters in the film based on facts

The latter list mostly features Ashley Judd portraying herself and flashbacks showing the aftermath of the supposed assault without venturing into the room. Throughout, there is a palpable sense of the way non-disclosure agreements, settlements and other means of coercion were used to silence would-be accusers, allowing the Hollywood mogul to continue to act with impunity. (The film’s producers include Brad Pitt, who has spoken out about confronting Weinstein when he was dating Gwyneth Paltrow.)

There’s an obligatory quality to the narrative that makes it difficult to portray journalists, and “She Said” doesn’t do much to characterize the presentation of the inner workings of the Times. Patricia Clarkson and Andre Braugher, as editors Rebecca Corbett and Dean Baquet, respectively, are mostly relegated to telling the intrepid duo to keep reporting and trying to get someone to speak on the record again and again.

In a sense, the film is another one of those titles that derives much of its resonance from its exploration of closure, offering a reminder of what the #MeToo movement has accomplished since Twohey and Kantor broke the Weinstein story in 2017.

At a time when journalism is often under siege, it pays to show its nobler qualities and higher aspirations. Even with hiccups and doubts, “She Said” succeeds in this central mission.

“She Said” opens in US theaters on November 18. It has an R rating.

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