Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Telling the Woman’s Side of the Story: “She Said”


The first time I heard of Harvey Weinstein was back in my Roger Corman days, when Harvey and brother Bob formed Miramax (named after their parents) to produce and distribute international art films. Roger had paved the way by showing that serious foreign-language films like Ingmar Bergman’s Cries and Whispers and Fellini’s Amarcord could make money in U.S.  markets. When Miramax came along and upped the ante, Roger went back to genre flicks. Miramax, meanwhile, distributed such offbeat hits as Pulp Fiction and The Crying Game, while also entering the production field. The company eventfully nabbed a Best Picture Oscar for 1998’s Shakespeare in Love, while being involved with many other classy projects.

 If Miramax sealed Harvey Weinstein’s reputation as a strong, hands-on producer, it took a while for the world to discover that Weinstein was hands-on in a more unfortunate sense. In 2020 his apparently insatiable demand for sexual favors from actresses and staffers earned him a 23-year prison term in New York, and a Los Angeles jury has just convicted him of heinous crimes. So it’s no secret today that Weinstein is capable of sexual harassment, even rape, But his behavior was still an industry secret back in 2017 when two female reporters on the New York Times, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, began investigating rumors of his mistreatment of women. Their groundbreaking articles showed the world Weinstein’s dark side, and encouraged scores of additional women to come forward. Eventually Kantor and Twohey turned their reporting into a 2019 book, She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement. And now that book is a movie, with a strong cast led by Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan.is IHis in

 If you’ve ever had a yen to be an investigative journalist, you’ll find She Said both fascinating and daunting. The film makes clear that reporters spend most of their days (and nights) far from their laptops. Before they can tap out the stories that will change people’s lives, they devote days, weeks, even months to tracking down cold leads. They’re forever phoning potential informants who hang up on them, and traveling great distances to have doors slammed in their faces. Somehow, even in the face of rejection, they know what to say, and are able to remain sympathetic to victims who just can’t bring themselves to tell what they know. Which means this two-hour film seems very long indeed, as we watch Jodi and Megan doggedly try to overcome all obstacles that will keep them from uncovering the truth.

 After watching the two cajole members of Weinstein’s inner circle over cups of coffee and glasses of wine, we see them wearily trying to keep their home fires lit. In real life both women have husbands who are themselves involved in writing professions (one a columnist, one a literary agent). In the film, all we know is that these guys are remarkably sympathetic to their wives’ overtime work obligations, despite the fact that there are young children who need attention. (Kantor’s spouse takes it in stride when, on a day’s notice, she jets off first to California and then to London in the line of duty.)  It’s  a far cry from the traditional Hollywood movie in which the man leaves on an exciting but difficult mission, while his wife stays home, worrying about his safety and keeping the kids in line.

 When the breakthrough moments do come, and when there’s finally enough on-the-record material to print a Weinstein exposé, we do feel a real sense of accomplishment. Too bad it’s such a slog to get there. 

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