halways through the movie She saidthe New York Times journalist Megan Twohey, played by Carey Mulligan, screams into a man’s face. She is in a bar with her fellow reporter, Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan), and editor Rebecca Corbett (Patricia Clarkson); the trio have met to discuss their investigation into Harvey Weinstein. The confrontation occurs after the man, who is drunk, hits Megan.
“I’ve never done that,” Twohey says, smiling. “But I’ve had outbursts like that over the years, from when I was a kid and I’d beat up a neighborhood bully for making fun of me and my friends.” She pauses. “It would be naive for people to think that we as journalists can immerse ourselves in the shocking prevalence of sexual abuse and not feel anger. I just don’t think that’s realistic.”
By now, the story of the Twohey and Kantor reporting is well known. In 2017, the duo began investigating allegations of sexual misconduct against a Hollywood heavyweight. The result was Pulitzer Prize-winning research that turned #MeToo into a viral movement that encouraged survivors of sexual violence to speak out. It also held perpetrators to account and, in some cases, like Weinstein, jailed them.
But the journey was complex, as detailed in Twohey and Kantor’s 2018 book that forms the basis of a dramatic film of the same name. Directed by Maria Schrader (whose previous credits include the Emmy Award-winning miniseries Heterodox), She said it is apparently about the downfall of one of the most powerful men in the industry. But it’s actually a story about women. Not just Twohey and Kantor and all they did to expose Weinstein, but the survivors they talked to and convinced to go on the record.
Thematically, the film traces the contours of old-style journalistic films like Stand out (on child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church) and All the president’s men (about the Watergate scandal). Fast-paced, tense, and brimming with high-stakes workplace drama (The New York Times allowed filmmakers to use their actual newsroom), She said does justice to the rigor required of investigative journalism. some criticsHowever, they have noted that the film lacks emotional depth and fails to scratch the surface of the themes it examines. This could simply be due to the theme; there are so many details that survivors of sexual violence feel comfortable sharing with the world. But it could also be a conscious cinematic decision.
“We set some rules,” says Schrader. “I am absolutely certain that I do not want to be a person who adds another rape scene to the world. So we stuck to our source material, which was Megan and Jodi’s factual report.” It was a good choice, and you hardly need to see the assaults to get an idea of the trauma they have caused. Flashbacks provide the necessary context, and we hear how each of the women was affected personally and professionally after rejecting Weinstein’s advances. Actress Ashley Judd (played by herself) was banned from Hollywood. Weinstein’s former personal assistant in the UK, Zelda Perkins (Samantha Morton), traded in dealings with movie stars for training horses. Miramax assistant Rowena Chiu (Angela Yeoh) suicide attempt.
Another rule was to keep Weinstein’s presence in the film to a minimum; we see him very briefly when he breaks into the New York Times newsroom, and we only see him from behind. “The entertainment world always focuses on the perpetrators and what made them who they are,” explains Schrader. “We wanted to focus on the survivors and their voices.”
The film also dealt with their portrayal of Twohey and Kantor. And while some scenes were complete constructions, like the one in the bar, others were rendered with maximum plausibility. “Jodi and Megan went through all the scenes and made sure the writing was accurate,” says Schrader, adding how they allowed the set designer into their homes to capture them, and how they live outside of the newsroom. , correctly on screen.
The process was “amazing” for Kantor, who is shown balancing the investigation with family life: At one point, he receives a call from actress Rose McGowan while out with her young daughter, and hastily grabs a crayon and hands her his Netflix password so that you can talk freely. For Twohey, however, the film went deeper, examining his struggle with postpartum depression following the birth of her daughter. “I haven’t talked about it before, so when we talked to the filmmakers about including it in the film, I have to admit that it made me feel a little vulnerable,” she says.
As daunting as it may seem, bringing their personal lives into the mix was a crucial component in developing the film. “Jodi and I agreed that it was important for working mothers to be represented in a realistic way. And I think for us, the fact that we were making this story while juggling young children and all the responsibilities that come with it…on one hand, that can be challenging. On the other hand, it can also be really exhilarating.”
Weinstein was Twohey’s first case when she returned from her maternity leave. “There was something about the way Carey Mulligan opens the newsroom door on her first day back, and you can see her coming back to her sense of self, and how the job really helps with that. She is very faithful to the life of many women ”.
Both journalists established close ties with the actors who played them. “It was a combination of really spending time together and getting to know them, but also not hanging around and giving them the license to say, ‘This isn’t a documentary, this is art, you’re creating characters, go ahead,’” he says. Kantor. “We felt lucky that we got to spend some real time with them, which on their end was more about research, but on our end, it was more about trust and understanding of the process.”
it is impossible to talk about She said without also acknowledging the precarious state of #MeToo today. In an article for The New York Times Marking five years since the publication of their research, Twohey and Kantor charted the ups and downs of the movement. The optimism comes through 22 states passing laws to protect women in the workplace, reformed laws around the world making it easier for survivors to report sexual violence, and more allegations against sexual predators coming to light.
But there is still no shortage of pessimism. In April, #MeToo obituaries circulated online after Amber Heard lost her highly publicized defamation case against Johnny Depp. Then, nearly five years after admitting to his sexual misconduct, Louis CK won a Grammy. And as allegations of sexual misconduct mounted against NFL player Deshaun Watson last summer, he signed a $230 million contract. Even Weinstein, who is currently in jail in New York and facing another trial in Los Angeles, has allegations against him that will likely never result in criminal charges: More than 90 women have accused him of sexual misconduct.
“Everything has changed and nothing has changed,” Kantor says of the movement’s progress. “But there have been real developments in the last five years. The most difficult question has to do with low-income women. Consider a woman who is flipping hamburgers and being groped by her boss. Is it really better than five years ago? I’m not sure you can really say the answer is yes.”
However, we must not be discouraged. Social change, Kantor acknowledges, takes time. And some of the progressions will be harder to measure on a global scale. “Even as #MeToo goes through these twists and turns, we’ve seen questions about safe workplaces and holding bad bosses accountable become more prominent than ever,” Twohey says. “Jodi and I feel like it’s like the gift of a lifetime to have been a part of that.”
A critique of She said it’s that, by turning their book into a Hollywood movie, Twohey and Kantor are feeding the very industry whose toxicity they exposed. Some have also pointed out that the film is being produced by Plan B, the production company founded by Brad Pitt, who serves as executive producer on the project and is currently facing allegations of abusive behavior by his ex-wife Angelina Jolie, Pitt’s representatives. they have denied these claims, calling them “completely false”. His participation in She saidhowever, it is believed to have been minimal.
“He wasn’t around while we were shooting,” says Schrader, explaining that Pitt’s partners Dede Gardiner and Jeremy Kleiner were the “hands-on producers” he worked with. “They accompanied this project from start to finish,” he adds. “Personally, I’ve never met Brad Pitt.”
As for questions about turning his investigation into a movie, Kantor has a different take. “I think that’s part of the power of the project,” he explains. “Because it brings the Weinstein story back to its own medium.”
Perhaps most important, however, is what the film does for the survivors. “Weinstein took these women out with the trash, and in some cases, they even had to sign agreements saying they wouldn’t talk to almost anyone about their own experiences. Hollywood took their voices away. This brings Laura Madden and Zelda Perkins and Rowena Chiu back to the movies, but with respect, dignity and sensitivity. That’s very gratifying for us.”
‘She Said’ is in theaters from November 25
If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone free of charge by phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email email@example.com or visit the Samaritans website to find the details of your nearest branch.
For more information on seeking support after a sexual assault, visit Rape Crisis. here.