2022 | rated R | starring Zoey Kazan, Carey Mulligan, Patricia Clarkson | directed by Maria Schrader | 2h 9m |

In 2022 (now 23), watching reporters even as recently as 2016 running around the world trying to get sources to go on the record before they can publish a story feels laughably quaint. Little did New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey know that just 7 years later they could just make something up, throw the phrase “anonymous source says” in front of it and hit publish on a damning hit piece without a second thought. But this is 2016 and that story in question is on the “f**king sheriff of this f**king lawless piece of s*** town” himself, Harvey Weinstein.

Against the backdrop of the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, it suddenly it is both a priority and fashionable for journalists to investigate systemic sexism that exists in the halls of power. This leads New York Times reporters Jody Kantor (Zoey Kazan) and Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) to follow the whispers, rumors and NDAs across 2 decades of harassment that traces all the way up to the president of the Miramax film studio. Once Weinstein gets tipped off to the story, Kantor and Twohey race against time to convince his legions of victims to go on the record and bring him down.

She Said is the first out of the gate about Weinstein’s reign of terror across Hollywood, and this situation is so existentially embarrassing for these people I doubt there are many more waiting in the wings. There are a couple of ways you could approach this story. From the perspective inside Hollywood or from the perspective of Ronan Farrow, the NBC reporter who spent years chasing down Weinstein to have the story punted by the network. Director Maria Schrader’s film is a straight procedural, but without the style, rhythm, crackling wit and simmering tension of investigative greats like All the President’s Men, Zodiac, or the TV series Unbelievable. These kind of movies need to be enamored with the details and immerse us in the day-to-day. It’s a superior talent for a filmmaker like David Fincher to create riveting sequences where characters rifle through paperwork. It takes a writer like Aaron Sorkin to set the events of the story against the grand magnitude of the history that it’s in. Otherwise, a procedural is just by the numbers, which is unfortunately where She Said falls.

The film treats the events with kid gloves. At no point is the phrase “open secret” used. At no point are we let in on the fact that people all over town knew this stuff was going on – the, if you ask me, real story behind this story. Instead, we are presented with Kantor and Twohey uncovering a mystery. Nobody wants to talk. Everyone hangs up on them. The story mirrors the employee intimidation done by Purdue Pharma in Hulu’s Dopesick. The victims are mostly heard over the phone as well as Weinstein himself. The incidents are not shown. The movie sets up two heroes of the movement, Ashley Judd (playing herself) and Laura Madden (Jennifer Ehle), whose story is the most gripping in the film and worth the signal boost this movie provides. She Said shies away from the grisly details of all this to avoid sensationalizing it, but that leaves the question open whether it should. Do we need to see this to deepen it’s impact? It’s a fine balance and I would say this particular movie airs on the side of too cautious. Too removed. We don’t have to actually see the rapes to see a Weinstein character bully his staff.

Kantor and Twohey are flat, static, characters. A better movie might have the investigation illuminate something in their own lives. Give them an arc. Instead we get broad drive-by spray, like a moment where Mulligan says in passing that all women are depressed because of passed down generational trauma. This despite both women’s husbands and the men of the newspaper (Andre Braugher lends some gravitas to the proceedings) being generally encouraging  to them and repulsed by Weinstein’s behavior.

I’m thinking of recent journalist procedurals like Spotlight and The Post that better dug their teeth into the day-to-day fascination with journalism. Where there is a scene of people pouring through piles of papers in an improvised war room on the floor of a living room. Where they are racing against the odds. Odds that aren’t particularly clear here. I really wanted to see a scene where much like in The Post, where Tom Hank’s character reframes the situation by admitting the press and the media had, in that case, always been too cozy with the president until that point. There is no journalistic self-reflection in a story where the biggest piece of the scandal is that all the people who could have stopped it, instead looked the other way in the name of politics and Hollywood favors.

She Said thinks it is saying more than it is, turning this monumental Hollywood scandal into a run-of-the-mill procedural. But as a procedural it lacks the cinematic touch of a Fincher film and as an examination of power dynamics it was beaten to the punch by this year’s more thoughtful, subversive Tar. For a film about journalism it lacks curiosity.