She Said (2022)
Ireland, 1992. Not quite where I was expecting this film to open, but then She Said does make a habit of upending expectations. Shortly afterwards we find ourselves in the offices of The New York Times where reporter Megan Twohey is investigating claims of sexual harassment against… presidential candidate Donald Trump! Five months after Trump’s election, Bill O’Reilly is sacked from his high-rating TV show after The New York Times exposed his history of sexual misconduct. Widening their investigation to other cases of abuse, it's not long before the paper turns its attention to Hollywood.
With Twohey expecting her first child, Jodi Kantor takes the lead on the story. One name soon surfaces as a serial perpetrator, film producer and Miramax founder Harvey Weinstein. Though Rose McGowan, Ashley Judd and Gwyneth Paltrow all recount their abuse at his hands, they fear the power he wields in Hollywood and refuse to go on the record. Turning to Twohey for help, the pair decide to go all 'Woodward and Bernstein' and follow the money, uncovering settlements paid to Weinstein's former assistants. However non-disclosure agreements and health scares conspire to keep these women silent as well.
Not so quiet is the film’s rightful trumpeting of the challenges faced by women in the workplace. Apart from the troubling advice some of the victims share on what to wear to fend off unwanted advances, She Said nicely depicts Twohey and Kantor’s struggles as working mothers, despite supportive partners and an empathetic editor. Also noteworthy is the unorthodox recreations of the crimes themselves, filming the remnants of their locations while the victims recount their experiences. Most impactful is the daring use of the actual police recording of Weinstein’s confession to sexually assaulting Italian model Ambra Battilana.
Where She Said falls short is in widening its scope. In one of the film’s best scenes, a source insists the story “is bigger than Weinstein. This is about the system protecting abusers”. Despite earlier references to Trump, O’Reilly and the questionable conduct of high-profile attorneys Linda Fairstein and Linda Bloom, She Said very much remains a procedural drama involving reporters endlessly knocking on doors.
as Ashley Judd
as Rose McGowan (voice)
as Gwyneth Paltrow (voice)
as Judith Godrèche (voice)
According to screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz, approximately 95% of the story is accurate, though some liberties were taken for the sake of dramatic impact.
“Hearing a phone call is more exciting than reading an email. It’s the truth, just a bit more animated.”
Rebecca Lenkiewicz, Los Angeles Times
Biopic features no scene recreations.