Former film producer Harvey Weinstein was once synonymous with Oscar success. His far-reaching impact on Hollywood became so enormous that the movie mogul felt invincible enough to use his power and influence to pressure, and eventually force, eager young actresses into sexual situations beyond their will. Maria Schrader’s presumed Best Picture contender, She Said, shines a light on those courageous individuals who helped bring down a despicable Hollywood titan and change the course of the world.
After failing to sway voters with her shocking New York Times story of multiple sexual assault allegations against Donald Trump in the lead up to the 2016 election, Megan Twohey (played by Carey Mulligan) struggles to a see a light at the end of the tunnel. But with women protesting in Washington D.C. and standing up to speak out in large numbers, fellow journalist, Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan), gets wind of rumors regarding a famous movie producer using his industry stature to force unknown actresses into doing the unthinkable. And when all trails lead to Harvey Weinstein, Kantor convinces her colleague Meghan Twohey to take another crack at bringing predatory male behavior to the spotlight.
She Said is a movie made by women, for women and about women. The film tells a significant true story, one whose disturbing and disgusting realities undoubtedly spurred a monumental movement in world history. Now, relevance aside, German writer, actress and filmmaker Maria Schrader's first foray into awards season contention also comes with many imperfections. She Said chooses to paint a black and white portrait of the world and the men who inhabit it. Outside of husbands and co-workers at The New York Times, essentially every other male in the film is crafted as an abuser, a person complicit and silent towards these crimes, or just a nasty everyday male who has evolved into a byproduct of this misogynistic system in place. For instance, even a casual Joe-nobody with zero relevance to the story is shoe-horned into a bar scene solely to be an obnoxious, instigating pig in an onscreen moment that feels wildly inauthentic. While writing decisions such as these add an emotional impact to the film's harrowing real-life events, they also serve as a hyperbolic and disingenuous reflection of the countless male allies who also desire systemic change on these women’s behalf.
Also, from a viewing perspective, She Said is a two-hour long cycle through typical investigative journalism film tropes. It never deviates from the formula and often comes off as a paint-by-numbers effort, failing to make its minutes count, However, when the film ultimately reaches its climactic finale, Schrader and company do a superb job of capturing the stark bravery of these victimized women as they finally decide to speak out about their experiences after decades of being silenced.
All in All, Maria Schrader's latest effort recounts a meaningful and necessary quest to change the world in an often flat and listless manner. Even a pair of excellent performances from leading stars Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan hardly keep the film afloat. While She Said has all the right ingredients to garner the interest of Academy voters, it's a far cry from other journalistic greats such as All the President's Men and Spotlight.