Review: She Said

The PR campaign for screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s movie adaptation of New York Times reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor’s Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism foregrounds their story as a seminal instance in the progress of the #MeToo movement, which it is. Nevertheless, as the movie presents how the two reporters coaxed female victims of Miramax president Harvey Weinstein to go on the record about his sexual abuse, it neglects to answer many questions the viewer is bound to have as the revelations unfold. One of the story’s precepts is the understanding that sexual exploitation, if not abuse, has been a tacitly acknowledged part of the Hollywood myth-making machine ever since it came into being, but exactly why it came to the fore so suddenly and powerfully at the time it did is left to the viewer’s imagination. The movie, as directed by Maria Schrader, gives the impression that it was the patient and empathetic efforts by Twohey and Kantor (played by Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan), two women who knew exactly where these victims were coming from, that made the difference (the script gives cursory credit to Ronan Farrow’s similar and concurrent coverage of the matter for The New Yorker). 

Consequently, the tone is a bit different from other journalistic thrillers: more even-handed, less melodramatic. It’s easy to infer that Schrader and Lenkiewicz were being overly cautious with such a fraught subject, but, actually, it seems to have more to do with how they characterize the corporate culture of the New York Times, which comes off as the most seriously considerate workplace in the world. Outside its hallowed offices, Twohey and Kantor encounter all sorts of ambient sexism and social censure—Twohey, who is suffering from post-partum depression for much of the early part of the movie, is hit on by a particularly aggressive asshole in a restaurant—while within the realm of the Grey Lady they receive nothing but unconditional support from their editors, Rebecca Corbett (Patricia Clarkson) and Dean Baquet (Andre Braugher), not to mention the various staff reporters who are only too happy to aid their mission. 

Since most of the running time consists of the two reporters carefully negotiating with sources for both information and their consent to going on the record, there’s very little intrigue, but while the movie doesn’t drag, it does open the viewer’s mind to the abovementioned questions, such as, How did this systemic abuse manifest itself so thoroughly at Miramax without any pushback from management level staff and the male filmmakers they worked with, and How widespread is it throughout the industry? Moreover, why hadn’t the mainstream press picked up on it much earlier? (It should be noted that the Times felt it was OK to pursue Weinstein because of the recent precedent of the Fox News-Bill O’Reilly case.) Of course, we can guess the answers and are encouraged to, but Schrader’s rigor in making sure the movie only adheres to the record Twohey and Kantor developed gives the overall experience of watching it a limited appeal. Perhaps it was impossible to take in the whole issue comprehensively, but the movie feels a little too cautious and pleased with itself. The ending catharsis is real but premature, since the problem is still at large. 

Now playing in Tokyo at Toho Cinemas Nihonbashi (050-6868-5060), Toho Cinemas Hibiya (050-6868-5068), Toho Cinemas Shinjuku (050-6868-5063), Shibuya Parco White Cine Quinto (03-6712-7225), Toho Cinemas Roppongi Hills (050-6868-5024).

She Said home page in Japanese

photo (c) Universal Studios

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