Content Warning: This article contains references to sexual assault.

On the basis of Art book of the same name by Jodi Kantor and Megan TooheyShe Said tells the story of how these two investigative journalists, played by Carey Mulligan (“A Young Woman on the Run”) and Zoe Kazan (“The Big Sick”), uncover and write history that would eliminate the power of the serial sex offender and establish # Me too movement within movement.

In the film, Toohey and Cantor work at the New York Times in 2016 they investigate Harvey Weinstein (“Shakespeare in Love”) — formerly one of Hollywood’s most famous powerful and successful film producers — and the charges against him sexual disorders at the workplace.

In 2020, the New York justice system convicted Weinstein was charged with two counts of rape and sexual assault and sentenced to 23 years in prison. Two years after his conviction, Weinstein is defending a second offender court in Los Angeles. He pleaded not guilty to all seven fees against him: two counts of rape and five counts of sexual assault. If convicted, Weinstein faces up to 135 years old in prison. She Said – released on November 18, 2022, just over a month after the trial officially began – focuses on the story that revolutionized talking about sexual harassment in the workplace.

The trial and the gruesome testimony that accompanies it represent much more than Weinstein. She Said gets it — Weinstein’s biggest physical contributions are his voice and the back of his head. The right choice, no question. The true story of how a king Miramax movies (and Hollywood, for that matter) has abused its power for decades without consequence, symbolizes a system that protects abusers and silences victims in the workplace. She Said speaks against all the Weinsteins of the world and the institutions that seek to protect them from the consequences of their guilty actions.

The film’s opening sequence follows Toohey as she publishes a history revelations of former President Donald Trump’s sexual misconduct in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election with a named source, leading to the firing of political commentator Bill O’Reilly from Fox News after misconduct statements surfaced against him. It serves as a prelude to the film’s central story and prompts the question posed by Times editor Rebecca Corbett (Patricia Clarkson, Sharp Objects): “Why is sexual harassment so common and so difficult to combat?”

“She Said” involves the grueling process of prospecting, approaching sources, complying with laws, adhering to ethical standards, and pulling strings. Undertaking the near-impossible operation to uncover a story of this magnitude, with no shortage of intimidated and legally closed sources, we can see how easy it would have been for Weinstein’s behavior to never come to light. The film is slow and methodical. It shares a naturalistic, procedural cinematic approach with Tom McCarthy’s 2015 film.Searchlight” that followed The Boston Globe operation expose the cover sexual abuse of children in the Roman Catholic Church. Both films are sobering as they closely observe the excitement and drama of all-consuming investigations into corrupt systems of deception and intimidation. Mulligan and Kazan honor Toohey and Cantor with memorable performances, their emotional vulnerability showing how passionate and personal reporting can be.

Despite the principle of this film, it is hard to ignore the paradox of this film. At first glance, it’s as if Hollywood is saying, “Hey, look at us! We repent! You can see that, right?” as if creating a biographical drama liberates Hollywood from their own complacency and the habitual possibility of sexual predators. It is not so.

Still, the irony is not lost on She Said. Rather than positioning Weinstein as the story’s sole villain, the film shows Hollywood studios, motion picture executives and the press complicit in a years-long cover-up. The film’s critique of its own industry avoids controversy by staying true to its subject matter and prioritizing transparent accountability without a second thought to those who might not like it. Based on the facts, the content of “She Said” is impressive and upsetting, driven by the testimony of Weinstein’s victims, which does not exclude the perpetrators.

Ashley Judd (“A Time to Kill”), who bravely plays herself in the film, shares the story of her encounter with Weinstein that led to her being blacklisted by the industry. Before speaking to the Times, Judd discussed her history publicly without naming Weinstein. She claimed that despite his anonymity, anyone who had been in the industry long enough knew who she was talking about. Still, the silence remained loud and persistent.

The press, including the Times, is held accountable in She Said for its silence, easily bought by exclusive access to Hollywood stars. When Cantor contacts one of Weinstein’s victims, the woman says she has spoken to the Times before but is hesitant to do so again after they ran her story in the Style section. These cases are often dismissed as “he said, she said” situations, but “She Said” does away with the narrative of Weinstein and those who taunted his victims by relying on the women’s testimonies, as the film’s characters do. This film, and the true story it depicts, is about giving women a voice — victims who can’t use theirs, victims who fear judgment, and journalists who have a responsibility to report the truth. Five years after the devastation of the Weinstein story, the need for these stories resonates today.

Daily Arts writer Maya Ruder can be reached at mayarud@umich.edu.

Post ‘She Said’: A Brutal Exposition of the Story That Toppled Harvey Weinstein first appeared on The Michigan Daily.

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