The power of She Said doesn’t reside in its filmmaking prowess; this is a capably made film by director Maria Schrader (I’m Your Man) from every angle, but nothing in its structure or style really sets it apart. Instead, what makes She Said so compelling is its story, based on the nonfiction book by New York Times journalists Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor. Even if you know where it’s going — which you certainly do provided that you’ve had internet access at least once in the last few years — there’s a thrill in getting to the inevitable takedown of Harvey Weinstein.
She Said sets the context by beginning during the 2016 presidential election. Despite the revelations in a bombshell report co-written by Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan), Donald Trump still ascended to the highest elected office in the United States. The most enduring result of the piece seems to be the threats against Megan’s life, adding to the stress of being a new mother. Meanwhile, Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) has begun investigating the murmurs that have swirled for years around Harvey Weinstein and his treatment of women in the workplace. Back from maternity leave, Megan partners with Jodi in the investigation, finding some equilibrium while struggling with postpartum depression.
Though big Hollywood names become part of the investigation, She Said doesn’t glamorize journalism — other than accurately portraying the statement-necklace-centric style of editor Rebecca Corbett, played by Patricia Clarkson. There’s a thrill when they write in the Times’ CMS (if you’re the kind of nerd who thinks about the Times’ CMS), but Megan and Jodi seem to hit dead end after dead end, facing obstacles from pervasive NDAs signed by those who worked with the Miramax co-founder and people who are just too scared of the powerful producer to go on the record. It’s arduous work that doesn’t have the guarantee of a payoff (though the audience knows the results of their efforts), but they do have the support of Corbett and executive editor Dean Baquet (Andre Braugher) throughout the process.
Beyond the compelling central story, Schrader and screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz flesh out the details of their lives and writing partnership, placing value in who Jodi and Megan are outside of work as mothers. What might be considered the minutiae of their days — how they balance full-time jobs and motherhood — gets more attention than in most movies. Even though this is the reality for so many women, it’s rarely depicted on screen like this; the filmmakers acknowledge the difficulties of juggling priorities without it becoming the focus of the film. That shared experience, and the work itself, bonds Jodi and Megan. The nuances of their relationship feel real and add joy to the film, from when Jodi grabs Megan’s arm in delight at her success to when they accidentally dress the same for a day of interviews.
As they weigh personal sacrifice against professional pursuits, the stakes of their work are admittedly higher than for many people. The value of the investigation is interrogated throughout the film as they question its potential impact. The audience knows that their work led to Weinstein experiencing real consequences for decades of abuse, but She Said makes it clear that he’s not the only villain. It condemns the systemic support that enabled him — and many others — for so long. This drama makes for a fine marathon with Spotlight, The Post, and All the President’s Men in how it esteems journalism and the pursuit of the truth, though the growing distrust in media makes it especially vital right now.
Like those movies, this is a prestige drama, filled with strong performances across the board and nothing too bold to scare away the more timid members of the Oscars. It’s solidly constructed in every way, from its inspiring script to the agile editing that keeps it from feeling overlong, even at 145 minutes. It’s a film to like very much — if not to love — but it succeeds in all its efforts to turn a real-life story into a gripping on-screen drama.
“She Said” is in theaters Friday.