SHE SAID (2022)

Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan in a still
  • Release Date: 18/11/2022
  • Cast: Carey Mulligan, Zoe Kazan, Patricia Clarkson
  • Director: Maria Schrader

Two Women, one abuser and the inception of the #Metoo

— Ambar Chatterjee

I have a deep-rooted love for investigative journalism dramas. Some of the films that I have seen the greatest number of times include Zodiac, All the President’s Men, Erin Brockovich, and Spotlight. Also, I have been keenly following the Harvey Weinstein trial. I was very interested to see how a man as powerful as Weinstein would eventually receive his due punishment and how all the resources and power at his disposal would fail to come to his rescue when his time was finally up. His punishment and incarceration gave me hope and instilled a sense of calm and satisfaction. It proved that when you do wrong, you definitely go down even if that takes time to happen. Thus, She Said was always an interesting proposition for me to watch as it combined my love for investigative journalism dramas and my interest in the Harvey Weinstein case and presented a story that I wanted to know more about. While I knew something about the trial and the various victims, I didn’t know much about the journalism side of it and how two women were instrumental in putting out stories about Weinstein which ultimately led to his victims finding their voice and bringing him down.

This film chronicles in detail the journey of two New York Times journalists Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) and Jodi Cantor (Zoe Kazan) who broke the story of Harvey Weinstein and his decades of abuse of women utilizing his position of power. The film not only relates the journey of the two journalists but also vividly documents the personal challenges and some of the mundane details of the two reporters’ personal lives and how these aspects contribute to their work and influenced it in positive and negative ways. The film is essentially a series of conversations and meetings between different characters.

The reporters try to convince and take out information from the women that Harvey had abused. Most of these women had signed Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) and hence the task proves to be incredibly difficult. The ones who had not signed NDAs just didn’t want to revisit the trauma and were hellbent on staying away from the wrath that Harvey could bring down on them and their families using his financial power and clout. If that was not enough, the reporters were threatened, marked, and followed, and even the New York Times was threatened by Harvey and his team to not run the story. The film draws a clear and cohesive picture of all these elements put together and how they impacted the final story that ultimately came out and lead to the arrest and prosecution of Harvey who is now spending a 23-year sentence in prison.  

Captivating screenplay: –

The screenplay of the film was engrossing. It is difficult to hold onto the attention of the audience when your story is primarily about characters talking. What worked in favor of the writers was the relevance of the issue and how shocking the cases of abuse were. Also, the fact that they were able to keep the dialogue and the exchanges snappy, interesting, and dramatically rewarding went a long way toward keeping the screenplay intriguing. There is a distinct feel to every conversation and the viewer is kept guessing of what was to going be the end result of the conversation or even what was the extent of abuse that a particular character had endured at the hands of Harvey. This contributes to the drama and intrigue in the screenplay.

The real Jodi Cantor and Megan Twohey

Well-written dialogues: –

The exchanges between the characters were heartfelt and at the core of the drama. If the dialogues were not snappy, intelligent, and interesting, the film would have fallen flat. Thankfully, the writing is proficient. One has to agree that while the dialogues are intelligent, intelligible, and often haunting, it is also the flow of the conversations that adds a lot to the proceeding. The settings feel real and the exchanges are carried out in a plethora of different manners. Some are phone calls too but feel extremely personal and on your face. Thus, the dialogues are impactful and contribute immensely to the heightened sense of drama in the narrative.

The impactful performances: –

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the entire film is practically acted out between Mulligan and Kazan even though there are a few notable supporting cast members. I just loved how the two characters brought their respective vulnerabilities to the characters of the journalists. The two characters are at the receiving end of endless refusals, denials, and “Nos” from the different characters for the majority of the film. Their respective personal lives are also impacted by the story that they are working on. Megan Twohey is someone who had a raw deal dealing with Donald Trump just a while before and her insecurities from that time often seep into her dealing with the current case and the lengths that she was ready to go to. All these aspects of the two characters and the predicament that they are dealing with are put on screen through visual cues, mannerisms, setups, dialogue, and emotional outbursts. None of it feels forced or unwanted and is organics for most of the parts. This not only helps give a better-rounded view of the two characters but also explains why they are so hellbent on breaking the story.

Mulligan has a been terrific actor in any role that she has been put in. Here too she is no different. Even though her character is shown demonstrating vulnerabilities, there is a sense of power and gusto to her character that will transpose pretty well to the audience. This is especially true towards the end of the film. I loved her interactions with the key stakeholders and her performance in the bits where the truth is revealed in all its horrifying details. Zoe Kazan brings her own charm and sensibility to the character of Cantor and knocks it out of the park in some of the most emotionally charged sequences.    

Solid Direction: –

Evidently, the subject means a lot to Maria Schrader who directs the film in a way that makes it apparent that she not only wants to tell a story but also wants to affect the viewers with the quantum of the problem that she sets out to deal with in the film. She uses many moments in the film to extract very personal reactions from the actors and these reactions help to elevate the tale from just another story of abuse to something much more important, deadly, and widespread. I liked this approach because I feel that abuse is certainly one issue that needs a dealing of this kind and can be addressed at a personal level if not by all but at least by the ones who set out to tell a story of this nature in the visual literary or medium. Her dealing with the technical aspects of the film was equally proficient. I, however, failed to understand why the film played in a 16:9 aspect ratio in my city. It was apparent that the film was shot keeping the large screen in mind then why was there this discrepancy with the aspect ratio?

The ensemble cast of the film

Final Thoughts: –

She Said, may not be as good and entertaining as some of my favorite investigative Journalism dramas, but it still has the power to haunt the audiences. Splendid performances, efficient storytelling, superb dialogue, and powerful source material ensure that this film ranks right up there with the best films of the year so far from Hollywood.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
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