She Said is a retelling of the New York Times reporters who released the Hollywood shattering story detailing Harvey Weinstein’s decades of sexual assault, abuse and harrasment of women in the industry with Ashley Judd as their star witness on record. The film is based on the memoir of the same name written by the two female reporters, Jodi Kanter and Megan Twohey. With Harvey Weinstein facing more jail time for more rape convictions, the timing couldn’t be more perfect to review this particular film.
The film has a lot of award buzz with Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman) nominated for Best Actress at the Academy Awards. Some thought it would nab a spot on the Best Picture list but it fell short. Was it deserving? The Conservative Critic Asks: Is it entertaining? Does it have artistic/intellectual value? And is it liberal propaganda?
The Conservative Critic Meter Check: She Said
Overall Rating: Tedious
The Harvey Weinstein story is a story worth telling and worth telling often. However, the major problem with She Said as a film is that it covers ground already covered by the New York Times expose and heavily covered by subsequent media coverage. A film based on a true story often is covering known ground but somehow She Said manages to take “I’ve heard this before” to a brand new level.
Some of the film’s composition is interesting. For example, the “other end of the phone” characters are well done and provide almost a cameo like essence. But other elements are part of the tedium of the overall product. The film feels so committed to its mild mannered realism that viewers are swept up into a sterile and collegial office environment and held there for a couple of hours. The very essence of the film flattens its emotional arcs which is not a choice that feels justifiable even when intentional.
Finally, the film can not bear to face tearing down the most elite of the liberal left without trying to also tear down Donald Trump and conservatives in the process. The film touches on key conservative sexual harassment claims that had come out just prior to the Weinstein story but leaves out the key liberal stories and – a criticism of the film and of the underlying reporting – the film makes no attempt to hold any powerful liberal Hollywood elites accountable other than Weinstein himself despite the fact that so many of them were deeply complicit in his rein of terror on young industry women.
Is it entertaining?
Rating: The story is just too well known
She Said somehow takes one of the most explosive stories of modern news media and waters it down into a very boring revisitation of facts and figures viewers have already seen and heard. Other true stories based on news articles have done fantastically well on screen lately such as Inventing Anna, and Pam and Tommy. And in the case of Inventing Anna, the story was also told from the perspective of the reporter who broke the story.
Unfortunately, She Said does not capture that magic. Essentially the two leads re-read the article viewers have already read but in extremely slow motion. There are barely any new revelations. No new emotional insights (or not many). It’s all very sanitary. It’s very much as though viewers are listening to the audiobook version of the underlying article.
Does it have artistic/intellectual value?
Rating: It’s very fine
Perhaps because the film wants so desperately to convey the meticulous nature of its subjects and underlying authors, Kanter and Twohey, She Said comes off very clinical. It appears this aesthetic choice is intentional and in this way, the film achieves what it sought out to achieve. However, the few emotional moments in the film do not land with much realism or triumph or interest because the viewer feels so detached from the material.
The performances are fine but none of the actors are given any room to breathe. Mulligan as Twohey puts in a high quality and professional effort which is the strongest of the film. Zoe Kazan (Clickbait) as Kanter is almost unnoticeable behind the veil of dreary nothingburger characterization. It’s not imaginable that Twohey or Kanter in real life is as plain of a baked potato as the two women given to viewers in She Said.
However, the quiet humility of the overall composition was unique and the way the celebrity victims and witnesses were handled was interesting and almost like adding little easter eggs to the story.
Finally, Ashley Judd’s appearance in the film playing herself making the decision to go on the record was a major bright spot. The only true emotional moment in an otherwise saltine cracker casserole of a film was Judd brought to tears in her choice to tell the truth as she knew it.
Is it liberal propaganda?
Rating: A very selective memory of events
The entire setup of the film is dedicated to detailing Twohey’s involvement in the claims made against Donald Trump and these claims are referenced multiple times throughout the film. It’s as though She Said couldn’t stomach the reality that Donald Trump’s allegations were never well verified which is why the New York Times didn’t continue on the path and pivoted to the much more credible Weinstein allegations. And despite the notion that these early allegations were important to establishing climate, the film totally forgets to add the Al Franken allegations or even once mention Jeffrey Epstein.
Further, and this is perhaps an analysis of the underlying story more so than the film, there is no attempt in film or in print to hold accountable the myriad of very wealthy and very powerful liberals who helped Harvey stay powerful. Politicians like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama who took his money and gave him power, and the hundreds of a-list actors who very intentionally looked the other way including Matt Damon who allegedly ensured that the Weinstein rape story was burried in 2004.
In a story which was so bent on seeming meticulous, gentle mannered and above board, it’s quite interesting which parts of the truth were left out for viewers.
She Said is fine. It’s boring and unnecessarily liberal but Harvey Weinstein deserves his awful truth to be told over and over again in as many ways as possible.