April 7, 2023 | ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT | By Zoe Smith
Content Warning: This piece contains mentions of sexual abuse.
One of the most glamorous nights in Hollywood: The Oscars. Actors and actresses from all walks of Hollywood come together to celebrate cinema’s most important night, celebrating the cinematic masterpieces in today’s film world.
There’s a fact about the Oscars I learned the other day that left me in disbelief. Looking at all the winners of each category throughout all the years the Oscars have taken place, the most thanked person, numerically, is God. Now that’s not very surprising. But who was the second most thanked person in the history of the Oscars? Harvey Weinstein.
Harvey Weinstein was one of the most famous Hollywood producers in the industry, where he had co-founded the entertainment company Marimax. Having produced a great number of hit classics including “Shakespeare in Love” to “Pulp Fiction,” he worked with large-name actors and actresses such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Salma Hayek, and Rose McGowan.
Oct. 5, 2017, The New York Times published an incriminating article about America’s most famous and seemingly adored Hollywood producer. “Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades.” This NYT exposé is where Ashley Judd and other women found the courage to speak about how they had been silenced for years.
After more women spoke up about the abuse they suffered at the hands of Weinstein’s grotesque abuse, he was charged the following May 2018 in the state of New York and was officially arrested and put behind bars in February 2020.
“She Said,” a movie based on a book of the same name, was released five years after the original article in October of 2022; it tells the story of Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, the two journalists who wrote the NYT article, and how their investigative journalism ushered the MeToo movement.
Actresses including Judd and Paltrow and countless workers of Weinstein’s were only a few of the women to speak up. Judd even appears in the film, bringing to the screen every piece of worry she felt when deciding whether or not to allow the Times to use her name in the article. Judd knew there was no going back once her name was out and what the consequences would be if nothing resulted from the article.
The film opens on a rural beach in Ireland, unexpected for a film of the matter, where a young woman finds herself a new job on a production site. Within the first minute of the opening sequence, the scene changes to the young woman running through the raining streets of a city, under clear signs of distress, indicating the panic that will sit with the viewers for the rest of the movie.
The next shot is of Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan), where in this scene, we witness Twohey speak on the phone with the voice of 2016 presidential candidate Donald Trump. She demands answers about his case settlement with adult film star Stormy Daniels. Trump threatens her before hanging up, pushing her to keep silent on the matter.
The prologue ends and the audience finds themselves transported back to 2017, where the writers of the NYT are searching for their newest topic. When Kantor and Twohey began to narrow in on the claims of sexual abuse against Weinstein and the Marimax company, they had no idea just how large this story would become.
“She Said” concentrates primarily on the process of Kantor and Twohey working tirelessly to prioritize building relationships with the victims, hearing their testimony, allowing the screen to be dominated by the women whose stories it concerns; this refreshingly reroutes the story into one about the women, not Weinstein.
What I found most powerful about this movie came more from a directorial aspect. Maria Schrader, the director of the film, makes it a staple of the movie to never actually focus on the subject abuser himself, Weinstein. The most we ever see of the actor playing Weinstein is the back of his head in one of the final scenes where he is conversing with the reporters at the Times.
My favorite shot in the entire film is toward the end when Weinstein and his team of legal representatives meet with Twohey, Kantor, and their team to discuss the impending release of the article, looking to receive a comment from Weinstein’s team to add to the piece. As the music plays over the conversation and the audience watches Weinstein and his team aggressively fight back against the Times’ team, the camera slowly zooms in on Twohey’s face.
You can see the range of emotions that cross Twohey’s face, but I interpreted the last emotion on her face as one of comfort. Although that is a strange emotion to feel during such a moment, it is because Twohey seems to feel in her bones that there is nothing that can be done to stop the article from running and that it was going to bring change.
This is a story about women, not Weinstein, and that was made apparent. When creating this movie, it is clear that although this tells the story of how justice was served to Weinstein, it is not a story about him. It is a story about how women all around the world were silenced and how much courage it took to stand up to the Hollywood Tycoon.
I first heard of this movie when it was assigned in my Fifth Block Introduction to Journalism class; the movie has flown under the radar, I discovered, since that was my first time hearing of its release, which is why I felt so inspired to write about it. Having brought a cultural revolution to the forefront of American society, the story of how Twohey, Kantor, and the survivors of Weinstein deserve to be talked about by everyone.
“She Said” is a profoundly thoughtful insight into one of the twentieth century’s biggest cultural movements, showing a triumph of hard journalistic work, and the fight for women’s voices to be heard in an industry where they had been silenced.