My roommate and I abandoned a rowdy college gameday on a chilly Saturday afternoon to catch a matinée at the local theater. Armed with a small bag of popcorn, chocolate-covered almonds, and my signature Coke slushie, I walked down the very last row and settled into a comfy seat. I stuffed my face and watched trailer after trailer, telling my roommate how badly I wanted to see each one when it was released. We’ll see for how many I honor that promise.
As the lights dimmed and the quiet chatter from other patrons calmed, I felt the tingling anticipation that always builds as the opening credits begin. I had seen the trailer for “She Said” when catching Baz Luhrman’s mesmerizing biopic of Elvis Presley over the summer. I believe I leaned over to my mom to whisper, “I have to see that,” butter breath and all.
Growing up with a fierce protector of a mom and a no-nonsense older sister, I have never once shied away from labeling myself a feminist, nor have I hesitated when reminding the men in my life of their problematic behavior. I even wrote my college essay on how I plan to reject the obligation women face to be a mother before all else and how I found the related stigmatizations ridiculous. When Roe v. Wade was overturned this past summer, my male friends knew not to raise the subject with me as my face would turn red, and my need to verbally eviscerate any man who thinks they deserve an opinion on women’s bodies wouldn’t make for a fun hang-out. I’m a peach, swear it.
This movie meant a lot to me, both as a woman and an aspiring journalist, and I want to explain why.
In February 2020, a New York jury found Harvey Weinstein, the producer whose films had won dozens of Oscars, guilty of criminal sexual assault and rape. Now, he’s back in court in California facing 11 further charges in front of a jury that was barred from watching the trailer for “She Said.”
Based on the nonfiction book of the same title, the film follows two New York Times journalists, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, working to uncover the systematic sexual harassment and assault that pervades Hollywood. After some research, they focused their reporting on Harvey Weinstein and began developing their sources. Eventually, they can gather concrete evidence from Weinstein’s associates and, with the help and bravery of victims and publish a series of articles detailing and exposing Weinstein’s behavior.
Those articles helped ignite the #MeToo movement, in which millions of women took to social media and other platforms to describe their own stories of sexual harassment and assault at the hands of powerful men. Debates ensued about whether the movement was vastly influential in eliciting criminal charges and whether it encouraged an “anti-men” philosophy. “She Said,” directed by Maria Schrader from a script by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, is done in a way that is so nose-to-the-ground and bulletproof that it can’t be subjected to shifts in cultural sentiment.
Measured and deliberate, the film adopts a quiet determination to tell a story rather than a flashy, cinematic approach that glamorizes the tale. Even the city that never sleeps looks ordinary. The film makes points about predation, complicity, and silencing in a manner that is not forceful or seemingly performative. In a sweeping saga of testimony and corroboration, the thrill of the piece accumulates slowly until the piercing sound of a cursor’s click.
The film opens in rural Ireland in 1992 when a young woman stumbles upon a film crew that quickly takes her under their wing. Moments later, the same woman is shown running down a city street, appearing disheveled and distressed. The time then shifts to 2016 when Twohey is reporting on women accusing Donald J. Trump of sexual assault during the height of the presidential election, and Kantor is reporting on Syrian refugees. Kantor and Twohey join forces following a tweet by actress Rose McGowan that they feel refers to Weinstein. They then spend months attempting to persuade a disparate group of actresses and former employees to go on the record while tracking down the rumored settlement agreements.
With help from a few unlikely sources, including a source within the Weinstein Company and Weinstein’s lawyer, as well as the brave testimony from victims of Weinstein, Kantor, and Twohey, we were able to compile a truly damning report of patterned abuse. Stressed is the precise grind of an investigation, including frustrating phone calls, doorstepping, plane rides, and the moral suasion that reporters use to convince sources to trust them. Twohey argues: “I can’t change what happened to you in the past, but together we may be able to use your experience to help protect other people.”
“She Said” adds another layer to the two leading journalists, allocating screen time to showing them as mothers and documenting their navigation of balancing journalism with family. It shows Twohey and Kantor's sacrifice to tell this story and expose a powerful and feared industry titan.
Another fantastic choice made in the movie? Said industry titan receives little to no screen time. We hear his voice and glance at the back of his head but never his face. The focus is entirely on the victims, captured in intimate restaurant settings with compelling yet reserved emotion. We also never see reenactments of the victim’s accounts, which I found refreshing in an age of visual media of relentless commitments to painting victims out of women. In “She Said,” we see and hear from survivors.
“She Said” details a triumph of journalistic sympathy and precision in telling a tale of a system that protects abusers. Twohey and Kantor’s articles may have wiped the dust off old tapes of transgressions, but society still has much progress to ensure women never have to suffer under men in power again.
My roommate and I watched the closing credits in silence. The popcorn depleted and my slushie a thing of the past, I wiped the salty manifestations of my grief from beneath my eyes. Suffering from knowing that women long before me have endured this kind of abuse, and they likely will long after. Distress from knowing it’s only a matter of time before I, a young woman, take similar suffering. Grief from wondering if two courageous New York Times journalists didn’t have the tenacity to stick with this story and get it out to the world, then who would have? Grief from knowing the road to improvement is long and winding.
As I drifted off to sleep that night, I thought of my future as a journalist and a seeker of truth. Thanks to this movie, and my apathy toward football, I now have two more role models. I have a clearer understanding of my goals and how I wish to weaponize my writing. Let us all take a page from Twohey and Kantor’s book: keep your head down, get your facts straight, and let the words speak for themselves. Speak for those who’ve been silenced.
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