I wasn’t in a hurry to see She Said, as, on paper, it sounded heavy going. Two hours and ten minutes of earnest New York Times journalists trying to nail the Harvey Weinstein story? Don’t we already know what happened? Perhaps this is why it has struggled at the Box Office, although numerous news items about how the movie has bombed but is ‘terribly good really’ haven’t helped. But then a friend posted emotionally about going to see it and it spurred me on to make the effort.
Well… for a movie where we do indeed know what happened, and where 80% of the running time is people on their phones, or reporting off-screen action, this is not only edge-of-the-seat gripping stuff, but incredibly moving. I went with my wife and we were both moved to tears (Gail’s from Sheffield and she’s dead hard!).
The genius of Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s script is that it’s the tangential detail that acts as the emotional sucker punch. A Skype call where a child reveals the extent to which sexual violence has been normalised is painfully upsetting. A woman about to go into theatre for a mastectomy making a crucial choice to cast off decades of fear and oppression – and more like this – dramatise how it isn’t simply the sorry tale of Harvey Weinstein being brought to book; it isn’t about bringing down one dysfunctional and evil individual. It’s about forcing a long overdue tectonic cultural shift.
On a personal level, while I never witnessed anything on this scale, having worked in theatre and broadcast media for forty years, I’ve encountered a good deal of sexist bullying and intrusive behaviour… and, I’m sorry to say, turned a blind eye to a good deal of it, especially when I was younger in the 1980s, telling myself (wrongly) that as long as I wasn’t a participant, my hands were clean. Of course, all I did, along with pretty much everyone else, male and female, is help to perpetuate a toxic, abusive culture. I mention this, because, if you get anything from seeing this film it shouldn’t be to consider the problems it identifies as ‘other’.
If All The President’s Men is about journalists exposing a conspiracy in the highest echelons of power, She Said is about ending a conspiracy where really rather a lot of quite ordinary people have been complicit as well.
Mulligan and Kazan are both terrific as journalists Twohey and Kantor, and who wouldn’t want Patricia Clarkson as your editor???? There’s a great cameo from Samantha Morton and an incredibly moving supporting performance from Jennifer Ehle. This is a film that could so easily have been ‘worthy’ in a bad way, but it manages to be angry and passionate, and while I haven’t checked the historical accuracy yet, it certainly feels truthful (which is something different). I guess it’s ‘worthy’ in the best way possible, as in leaving me feeling that I’m not worthy… just blown away.
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