movie reviews

‘She Said’ review: A powerful film treatment of the #MeToo investigation

Carljoe Javier
‘She Said’ review: A powerful film treatment of the #MeToo investigation

Universal Pictures

'I think it’s especially important to have portrayals of journalism like this in popular culture'

I think it’s a fair thing to say that watching anything to do with #MeToo and the sexual violence that predicated it isn’t going to be a “fun” and “entertaining” (in the way we think of popcorn flicks) experience. Although, sadly, it’s probably going to be only too relatable for too many women. But it’s important that we continue to have these conversations, and that our culture continue to evolve to at least try and be better. She Said is going to be an important movie in continuing the conversation as it dramatizes the investigations that led to the eventual cases that have put Harvey Weinstein behind bars. 

Some caveats from me as we proceed with this review. I’m obviously not the best person to speak about the movement, social impact, women’s issues, etc. I want to think that, where I can be these days, I try to be an ally. But also I am a very, very flawed dude and all I can do is recommend the movie based on my own response to it. I lack a true understanding of what women go through and if there’s stuff I missed here, then I apologize in advance. In addition to that, I also want to call out my quite obvious bias for the subject matter here. This is a movie about journalism, the importance of the work, and the heroism that is sometimes needed to practice it. 

The film follows two New York Times journalists, Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor (played by Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan, respectively). Both women, and the entire cast for that matter, turn in extraordinary performances. There were many moments when the acting, especially by those portraying survivors, was so powerful, that I could easily forget I was watching a fictionalization.

Twohey and Kantor go from hearing rumors about someone big in Hollywood, an open secret about one of the most powerful men taking advantage of actresses, to working to find the truth of a decades-long system, protected or at least enabled by a permissive culture and willing accomplices. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything here, as we all know the verdict has come in, and thankfully we have seen that powerful people can be held accountable. 

So what’s the point of the movie, then, if we know the ending? 

Part of the point, as well as a large part of the brilliance and the importance of the film, is the creative decision to change the center and the focus from the abuser, where so many stories like this settle, and to highlight the women who had the bravery to come forward and the women who helped give voice to their stories. 

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Director Maria Schrader and writer Rebecca Lenkiewicz make brilliant creative decisions that are always respectful of the women being portrayed. They show without sensationalizing. And it’s in the space of this restraint that the work becomes even more powerful. By holding back, it asks us to fill in the blanks, to put our selves and our emotions into those spaces. 

The subject matter is difficult, challenging to navigate, and in all honesty, infuriating. If I was left angry, I can only imagine how other people would feel after watching this. In that sense this film is very effective in speaking about its subject matter. It doesn’t preach; it doesn’t tell you what to think or feel. It just makes you confront the truths of what happened, what was revealed through the investigations. 

So on one level is this incredibly important subject matter, and on another level is the way in which these investigations are conducted. As the main points and the characters we follow in the story, we get to see Twohey and Kantor doing their journalistic work. Now, let’s be honest here, the work of journalism – doing research, tracking down sources, doing interviews, so much time spent on the phone or online, taking calls – it’s not exactly the stuff of film, usually. So that’s another triumph of this film. It doesn’t necessarily make journalism exciting, but it portrays it in a way that works for film. 

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I think it’s especially important to have portrayals of journalism like this in popular culture. We live in a day and age where journalism and journalists are maligned and discredited by people who don’t even understand how it’s done.  Having a film like this to show not just the important work of journalists on the ground, but the entire editorial infrastructure that supports good investigative journalism, hopefully not only builds trust but inspires people to either practice good journalism or to at least support it. 

Of particular interest to me were the scenes when Twohey and Kantor were joined by their editorial team to confront Weinstein and his team. That, and how this movie has a scene that is the most exciting portrayal of people reading and editing an article on a CMS. 

She Said is an important film, talking about a very important moment in history. And well, it’s kind of a great commercial for the New York Times and investigative journalism in general. It definitely won’t be for everyone. It’s no Friday night popcorn flick. But it’s something that people should definitely go see. –

She Said comes out in Philippine cinemas on Wednesday, November 23.

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