Matt at the Movies: "She Said"
Matt gives this timely film 8.0/10, and he says it should get some decent Oscar buzz.
Matt originally reviewed She Said last month. It is now available on the Peacock (NBC) streaming service.
She Said in a nutshell: A deep dive of the New York Times investigation to expose decades of sexual misconduct by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein that helped ignite the #MeToo movement in 2017.
Time is money, why should I go? It’s a nuts and bolts examination of investigative journalism and how difficult it can be to unravel a system of forced silence. If you enjoyed All the President’s Men or Spotlight, then give this film a watch.
Spill the tea: I’ll only be focusing on the film version but it’s based on the 2019 biographical true crime book that bears the same name. Set in the actual New York Times office (what a communal kitchen), we meet investigational journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. Twohey (Carey Mulligan) is fresh off several scathing pieces of sexual misconduct from then presidential candidate Donald Trump. She has a thick skin and must yield it from the onslaught of sycophants who wish her dead. Kantor (Zoe Kazan) has won accolades for her work with women’s rights at Harvard Business School and Syrian refugees in Canada amongst many others. This movie holds the weight of an era that seems on the precipice of collapse heading into the 2016 election.
As the women meet both high (Ashley Judd & Gwyneth Paltrow) and low (assistants) profile victims who all had the same misfortune of working with Weinstein, you see how closed loop his world is. With a bevy of lawyers, non-disclosure agreements, and threats of blackballing, he’s created a system of abuse that’s lasted over two decades. When he can’t get why he wants, he resorts to lawsuits and intimidation to keep his victims quiet. Interestingly enough the New York Times has their own infrastructure to allow both Kantor and Thowey to continue their pursuit of exposing the truth. To help them on their journey are their editor Rebecca Corbett (Patricia Clarkson) and executive editor Dean Baquet (Andre Braugher). Each gives their guidance and also a buffer from Weinstein to carry on with their work.
The women must find a balance with their sources to obtain relevant information while not ruining the lives of the victims who often were paid off to secrecy. The gross nature of NDA agreements and their strangle on the truth often leads to dead ends for our journalists. However as they start to collectively piece together each victim's story they find there is strength in numbers no matter how much the damage. This isn’t a mystery story, we know what happens to the bad guy. The journey which at times early on feels like a paint by numbers investigation, really hits its stride in the final third.
Star of the show: Both are leads who each will be nominated in acting categories this year did a wonderful job pacing the movie. Their works makes it possible for two of the victims' stories to take centerstage with essential scenes. Samantha Morton and Jennifer Ehle portray victims decades after their incidents. As each is interviewed by Kantor you see different realities from the collateral damage of Weinstein’s wake of terror. Both take us out of the sometimes tedious investigation to a one on one human connection. You see their pain, understand their silence over the years, and hope whatever they choose will bring them peace. Without these scenes the movie may just fade into relative obscurity. With them it really ties the whole story together and turns into an Oscar contender.
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Don’t Sleep On: Emmy winning German director and actress Maria Schrader who turns a tough genre (true crime investigation) into an examination of how journalism is conducted in the 21st century. With publishing deadlines gone and the constant 24/7 news cycle looming, we see how it can take a village to expose a monster. She has an outside shot at being nominated for best director this year.
Best ten minute stretch: After running into dead ends from coast to coast, Kantor heads across the pond to talk to one of Weinstein’s early victims. Morton and Kazan go through her past events and the aftermath of the Weinstein cover up machine. It is a stunning scene and an emotional gut punch for the film. If you were on the fence leading into this sequence, it will make up your mind for you by the end. Kudos.
Stay away if: You dislike people portraying themselves on screen. It always takes away something from me and kicks me out of movie mode to reality. Maybe it was intentional for this particular subject matter, but I digress.
Coulda used a little more… Time spent with their editor played by Patricia Clarkson. I’ve read that some of her scenes did not make it out of the editing room, but it would have been nice to see more of her presence which was a big part of the book.
MatM Score: Recommend - 8.0/10 (Should get some decent Oscar buzz)
Breakdown: Pieces together the overall “vibe” this movie brings from other releases: