On Oct. 5, 2017, investigative journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey changed the course of American history with their bombshell New York Times article “Harvey Weinstein Paid off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades.” The pages-long expose, containing multiple written statements of accusations, settlement evidence and legally fraught conversations, kickstarted the political movement known as “#MeToo,” a cultural zeitgeist of the tension-filled half decade following Donald Trump’s presidential election. But what came before the article, before the movement? What led to Kantor and Twohey hitting ‘publish’ on, arguably, one of the most recognizable and influential articles of the 21st century?
Maria Schrader’s 2022 psychological thriller “She Said” explores just that. Although the topic might appear dull to audiences at first—hours of conversation in boardrooms and irrelevant interviews; who wants to watch that?—the movie proves its worth fairly quickly. It is a thriller: Twohey and Kantor (portrayed by Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan, respectively) are both constantly pursued by threats to their lives and their families as they delve deeper into the well-protected rabbit hole of Weinstein’s history of abuse. We follow them through conversations with high-profile actresses like Gwyneth Paltrow and the assistants at the bottom of the Hollywood pyramid, some of whom were so blacklisted from the business that they had gone into hiding after leaving Weinstein’s production company, Miramax.
It’s a difficult story to portray on film for multiple reasons, primarily because it is about a very recent Hollywood scandal. Aftershocks from the Weinstein bomb are still felt, and predators in the film industry are hardly extinct. Telling this story delicately, then, was a difficult task. I believe Schrader and screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz hit the mark in the only way they could. The movie focuses on the survivors, not the abusers, and I think that is its best quality. We watch survivors interact not only with Kantor and Twohey but also individually, deliberating about the mental and emotional toil that would come with having their names on the record as victims of Weinstein’s abuse.
We also watch Kantor and Twohey’s glamor-less struggles as they become catalysts to the biggest scandal of the 2000s. Kantor’s global search for survivors willing to be mentioned in the article leaves her separated from her husband and daughters. Twohey throws herself into work following the birth of her first daughter and her subsequent postpartum depression. Although I wished “She Said” had focused more on Kantor and Twohey, specifically in the latter half of the film, I think it juggled the ensemble cast the best it could.
I absolutely think this movie is a necessary watch. However, it’s important to keep in mind your own level of emotional exhaustion before doing so—I know watching it drained me. It’s difficult to watch a story left unresolved. Although the film ends with the article’s publication, life continues for Weinstein, who has yet to be fully convicted, and sexual predators remain everywhere. “She Said” stays true to life in that there is no happy ending, only ambiguity. However, is that really what audiences are searching for? In a world filled with endless things to be worried and upset about, sometimes it’s difficult to sit through a two-hour movie that encompasses all of these things and more.
As for me, I spent the train ride home wondering why I cried so little while watching “She Said.” I was prepared—I came in with a tissue box. But I’d only teared up at some moments, never a sob and not even a whimper from me. I realized that it was probably because, like most people, I am emotionally exhausted. When is it possible to run out of tears to cry? When did it stop being tears and start becoming this budding, dull anger deep in my chest? “She Said” makes me want to scream out of pure frustration and grief, but isn’t that what most things do today, anyway? Perhaps, the film is a good exercise in not only letting issues go but examining them through a healthier lens. As the world moves on and problems continue to arise, we should all consider how pieces of art like “She Said” can help keep ourselves going.
Annabelle Smith is a first year with a currently undecided major.