She Said, based on an autobiographical book of the same title, follows The New York Times investigation by Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) and Meghan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) into the decades of sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein. Director Maria Schrader (Unorthodox) and screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz were both concerned with continuing the ongoing conversation surrounding the #MeToo movement which was ignited by this article.
After the revelations in 2017, Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in a New York state prison on charges of sexual assault and third-degree rape. No one wants to see a film about him. However, She Said steers clear of depicting Harvey Weinstein – he is never actually shown on screen apart from an ominous but brief shot of his back. This is a film about the bravery of his victims for speaking out and the danger of doing so.
Carey Mulligan is in her element playing Twohey, the headstrong journalist. Especially after the success of Promising Young Woman where she plays a woman trying to expose the culture of sexual assault in nightclubs. Twohey is first shown going head-to-head with Donald Trump over his sexual harassment allegations before his election in 2016, we see from the start how close this cause is to her heart.
Zoe Kazan is equally impressive as Kantor who previously worked on cases investigating sexual harassment in the workplace. She learns about Rose McGowan’s (Kelly McQuail) account of assault by Weinstein and begins the investigation.
Twohey later joins the case, steering it away from solely focusing on the accounts of famous actresses like Gwyneth Paltrow, towards women who, in her words, “have no voice”. A former employee of Harvey Weinstein and one of the first women to go on the record, Laura Madden (Jennifer Ehle), says in the film, “It was like he took my voice that day, just when I was about to start finding it.”
Although the film goes into some detail about the experience of the victims, there are no graphic scenes of assault. This allows for a level of control of the victim’s experiences. Their trauma is not exploited for shock factor, instead, each victim is given a deeply emotional and respectful focus. Ashley Judd plays herself in an especially heart-wrenching scene where she recounts her own experience.
The film also includes interspersed shots of the younger counterparts of Laura Madden as she stumbles upon a film set in the opening shot of the film, and Weinstein’s former assistants Zelda Perkins (Samantha Morton) and Rowena Chui (Angela Yeoh). They serve as a sobering reminder of how young they were at the time.
The film adds a personal level to Kantor and Twohey’s lives to show how all-consuming the case became. In a conversation with her young daughter, Kantor is shocked to hear her say the word “rape”. It is a reminder of the importance of the #MeToo movement, to protect the next generation of women. Twohey is shown dealing with postpartum depression before the case begins, which Mulligan has also admitted to having struggled with. She claims she understood why Twohey clung to the case as something solid to focus on.
Eventually, with the supervision of Rebeca Corbett (Patricia Clarkson) and Dean Baquet (Andre Braugher), the article is finally completed in a classic shot of the “Publish” button being clicked.
She Said is a timely reminder of the ongoing abuse of power perpetuated by the Hollywood system. Although She Said is a landmark in Hollywood addressing its own problem, the #metoo era is far from over, we must stay vigilant.
She Said is now showing in cinemas.