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‘She Said’ Tells the Story Behind the Story

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Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers for the movie “She Said.”

Released on Nov. 17, the film, “She Said” reveals the power of journalism. “She Said” is adapted from the autobiographical book written by the two authors, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, responsible for the New York Times article that kick-started the prosecution of major film producer Harvey Weinstein. The movie further develops this well-known story into something emotionally charged and still relevant four years later. 

“She Said” balances the everyday lives of Jodi (Zoe Kazan) and Megan (Carey Mulligan) who are both mothers raising young families while also conducting new stories on deeply troubling, high-stakes abuse. 

Photo from New York Post

At one moment, Jodi is talking to her daughter, teaching her lessons about secrets. In the next moment, she is sitting alone in her bedroom receiving an account of horrendous abuse from a famous actress. 

The movie focuses primarily on the women that spoke out against Weinstein and the danger their words put them in. One scene depicts a woman recounting her story: the visuals go still, while the woman’s horrific experience is heard and listened to for the first time. Later on in the film, one woman, Laura Madden (Jennifer Ehle), says “He took my voice that day, just as I was beginning to find it.” This is a breathtaking line charged with pain and regret — a poignant example of the womens’ lack of power in comparison to Weinstein. With skill, the film communicates the devastating impact Weinstein had on so many lives as well as the ease in which he was able to get away with it. 

Through a brilliant decision, “She Said” does not show Weinstein’s face at all. Instead, the film  plays only his voice on the phone and shows the back of his neck while Megan talks with him. The film chooses to spend more time depicting the experience of Weinstein’s victims and highlighting the imbalance of power in Hollywood. This movie is not a feminist attack on men, but instead a reconciliation of a mountain of wrongdoings conducted over two decades. 

A notable amount of screen time is devoted to the writers’ meetings with Weinstein’s victims and the telling of their stories. The women are depicted starting out young and hopeful as they enter their careers, expecting to be taken seriously and treated as equals. As they hear of the abuse and are sworn to silence by Weinstein’s lawyers, the young women grow from hopeful to hopeless. 

Though director Maria Schrader is not very well known, she depicts New York with artistry on par with Hollywood’s top directors. There are many beautiful shots of the city and shots filmed through windows in order to orient the viewer inside a highrise building. 

Photo from Variety

Likewise, the film’s music has a strong impact throughout. It is mostly sad classical music with a resonance of importance, heavy on the violin. 

Interestingly, there are moments when “She Said” feels a bit like a New York Times advertisement. For example, there are many shots of the newspaper headquarters looking strong and noble amongst the New York skyline as well as scenes of the writers congratulating themselves on a job well done. This perspective raises some concerns for bias. However, as a success story for the newspaper, this recognition is to be expected and is, in many ways, warranted.

“She Said” demonstrates the unique ability of journalism to hold people accountable for issues no one else is willing to talk about. Jodi and Megan encounter dozens of women all with similar accounts of abuse by Weinstein who are terrified to speak out against the harm done to them. What’s worse is that many of the women did try to speak out about their abuse but were met with a system set against them, far more powerful than their individual voices.

Although the majority of this film takes place in an office setting, it never fails to be gripping. The audience watches the work of Jodi and Megan as they sift through details and collect it all into an argument so persuasive that it attracts the attention of Weinstein himself. 

“She Said” is never dull even though its ending is of public knowledge. It is a story of courage and strength in the face of intense danger. 

By the end of the movie, viewers are left with the notion that every piece of information in the New York Times article was contributed with sacrifice. Whether it was their reputation, their careers, or their safety, these women all gave up something to form a story persuasive enough to convict someone as powerful as Weinstein.

Emma McCandless is an Entertainment Intern for the fall 2022 quarter. She can be reached at emccandl@uci.edu