Movie Review: She Said

Harvey Weinstein was back in the news again a few weeks ago. The disgraced movie mogul, who was sentenced in February 2020 to 23 years in prison for sexual abuse, appeared in a Los Angeles court to face 11 counts of rape, forcible oral copulation and sexual battery at another trial. As it stands right now, Weinstein won’t be getting out of jail until 2039 at the earliest, at which time he’ll be 87 years old. If he loses in California, he’ll never see freedom again, which will be just fine for most, if not all, of his victims, and for those who support the #MeToo movement.

Weinstein’s sexual exploits were Hollywood’s worst kept secret for decades. A few women had gone public with their allegations but their claims were quickly dismissed by law enforcement agencies, their experiences quashed by the media who were being bullied into submission by Weinstein’s marketing machine, and their traumas were ignored by the public in general. “It’s the Hollywood casting couch, after all,” many of us said. “This is to be expected if you want to be famous.” A sea change occurred in 2016, though, when Fox News head Roger Ailes resigned following numerous sexual abuse allegations. This was quickly followed by an explosive report by The New York Times that Bill O’Reilly and Fox News had paid five women upwards of $13 million to settle their sexual misconduct lawsuits against him. Fox parted ways with O’Reilly too, but the hits just kept on coming. The New York Times then revealed that O’Reilly had paid a woman $32 million for his allegedly initiating a “non-consensual sexual relationship” with her. The wall of silence had begun to crack open.

With the O’Reilly story now in the rear view mirror, Times investigative reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey turned their attention to Weinstein. Though they were able to speak with a number of women who were sexually abused by the man, none was willing to go on the record, either out of fear of retribution or in the believe that nothing would happen even if they did. Fortunately for Kantor and Twohey, their editor, Rebecca Corbett was solidly in their court and she encouraged the women to press on as the matter was of huge importance. In October 2017, The New York Times published its story, revealing multiple allegations of Weinstein’s sexual misconduct over the years. Although Weinstein and his team tried to kill the story before it went to press, they failed miserably and the story, as well as a series by Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker magazine that came out at around the same time, served as the catalyst for criminal charges being laid against him.

SHE SAID recounts Kantor (Zoe Kazan, WILDLIFE (co-writer); THE BIG SICK) and Twohey’s (Carey Mulligan, THE DIG; PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN; WILDLIFE) journey to research the story and get it to press. The film’s title is taken from the pair’s book of the same name, which was published in 2019. Similar in structure to ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN and SPOTLIGHT, SHE SAID puts emphasis on the paper’s sound investigative journalistic practices, which is something that many news outlets are all too willing to forego these days in order to be first to the post. While Kazan and Mulligan do respectable work here, neither performance is particularly riveting. Andre Braugher (TV’s BROOKLYN NINE-NINE) handily wins that contest with his no-nonsense portrayal of the paper’s executive editor, Dean Baquet.

What’s most interesting is that the film includes the real audio recording Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez made in 2015. Weinstein comes across as a pathetic pervert as he repeatedly tries to lure Gutierrez into his hotel room. Equally impressive is that Ashley Judd, herself one of Weinstein’s victims, plays herself in the film. Although the film is produced by Brad Pitt’s Plan B, Gwyneth Paltrow is not in the film although her name is mentioned a few times. Pitt and Paltrow were dating at the time she made allegations of her sexual abuse. Also absent is noted #MeToo activist Rose McGowan, although another actress voices her on telephone calls.

A colleague said that although he liked SHE SAID, he felt it was a bit late. In his mind, the #MeToo movement has fizzled out. Has it though? Since that time, noted celebrities like Kevin Spacey, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Bill Cosby, Jeffrey Tambor, Armie Hammer and Bryan Singer among others have seen their careers derailed by the #MeToo movement. In June, a Brooklyn court sentenced singer R. Kelly to 30 years in prison. A Chicago court is scheduled to sentence him for offenses committed there next February. No, I don’t think SHE SAID is too late. Sexual abuse by the powerful hasn’t gone away. It’s just hiding better.

SHE SAID opens in Hong Kong on Thursday (November 17th) and in the US on Friday. It’s a good lesson in history and journalistic integrity.

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3 thoughts on “Movie Review: She Said

  1. Hi, Howard!
    Any idea when “The Fabelmans” is coming to Hong Kong?
    How are you doing? Hope to see you at the next meeting.

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