Review by Dan Skip Allen
Films about journalism are some of my favorite movies. All the President's Men and Spotlight are two of my favorite films of all time. They just get the right vibe for this genre of film. The performances in both movies are amazing, and the topics that are talked about mean a lot to me and a lot of others. She Said is a very similar style of film but falls very far from the tree, considering the high standards it had to live up to.
Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) and Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) are two investigative reporters for the New York Times. They are both mothers and wives. Their careers are foremost in their lives, though. When they get accolades for exposing Donald Trump for sexist activity regarding his pageants, next on their radar is Harvey Weinstein. They go full bore towards taking this Hollywood producer down.
This subject matter is very important. It is the first step in exposing sexual assault in the workplace by many people. This story breaks the ice on this type of crime. The film does everything it can to convince the audience of how powerful this is. The problem is the filmmaker and writer don't do enough to make this story come across on film as well as they should. The acting by the two stars isn't that good. They aren't taking this role to the limit as they should. I don't take these two characters seriously while watching them.
The investigative work done by them is very good. The questioning of potential contacts regarding the article they are planning to write is done superbly. That said, the film is disjointed in how it presents all the evidence gathering and so forth. There are some very good performances of women willing to go on the record to expose Weinstein and men like him. Jennifer Ehle and Emily Morton are very believable as women who Weinstein victimized. Their stories come across strongly in the narrative of the movie.
The film is set in New York but also in other locations like San Francisco and England/Ireland. The film's lifeblood is The New York Times office. The floor has a lot of activity, and the various offices and rooms they use to film many meetings between reporters and editors and people being interviewed are filmed beautifully by Natasha Braier. Braier is one of many women who have worked on this movie that is — I'm sure — very important to them regarding the subject matter depicted.
Rebecca Lenkiewicz wrote the screenplay based on the reporting of Kantor, Twohey, and Rebecca Corbitt. Understandably, the studio, producers, and director wanted to assemble a team of women to work on this movie who may have had a vested interest in it. The problem is they may not have been the best people for this project. That includes the main actresses. There was just a disconnection from the creative side to the finished project that bothered me. Some things didn't work in the context of the overall story and execution of the said story.
Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan are two outstanding actresses, and Mulligan, in particular, is coming off an Oscar nomination with Promising Young Woman. They just didn't have a good day at work, as far as I'm concerned. They didn't come across as well on screen as these two women. These performances should be very powerful, but they seem out of place in this movie. I don't know how all the behind-the-scenes stuff works regarding how actresses get cast in specific films, but I think the casting director could have found more committed actresses for the roles, or the director could have tried to get better takes in some of these scenes.
She Said lacks empathy for the victims of Weinstein, and the film has a disconnection regarding how this movie is brought to the screen. The performance of the two starring actresses is on par with that fact. A couple of supporting performances bring emotion where it is needed, but it's not enough to get this story to where it needed to go. I didn't feel like I should have while watching this story unfold. That was an unfortunate circumstance. Viewers needed to have a hatred for this man who was accused and eventually convicted of these crimes. And that didn't happen for me. The #MeToo movement came out of this article and changed how the workplace is handled from this day forward. This movie didn't do anything to help that movement from where I'm sitting. It is unfortunate because this should have been handled better all the way around.
She Said screened as part of the 2022 Miami Film Festival GEMS program, which runs November 3-10.