“New York Times reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor break one of the most important stories in a generation – a story that helped ignite a movement and shattered decades of silence around the subject of sexual assault in Hollywood.”

Director: Maria Schrader
Writers: Rebecca Lenkiewicz, Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey
Staring: Zoe Kazan, Carey Mulligan, Patricia Clarkson, Andrew Braugher
Rated: R
Release Date: November 18, 2022
IMDB

I have a lot of complicated feelings about She Said (2022). This is my blog, so I am going to work through them.

When I heard that She Said was going to be made, I really wanted it to be good. I really wanted She Said to stand up to some of the best journalism movies. The story is deep, modern, still evolving, and important. I was excited to see how this movie would take a momentous bit of journalism and bring it to life and illuminate society just as the story shined a light on some of humanities darkest convictions.

Then the trailer came out. And I thought that it was bad.

I wrote this down in my initial thoughts of the trailer.

This trailers main focus is on the reporters, and most notably Jodi Kantor. From this trailer, I do not get the sense that this movie is about the story of women being mentally and physically tormented.

This is a delicate dance that needs to be played by director Maria Schrader and the writing crew. How do you make the story the focal point but also allow for a bit of spotlight to fall on the reporters as well? 

I am not going to call myself a prophet, but I pin-pointed the biggest issue that I have with She Said. This movie can’t decide what it wants to be about. Does it want to be about the reporters who are tracking down all the victims? Does it want to be focus on the victims themselves? Does it want to focus on the act of journalism itself?

She Said tries to blend all three, and it does so with mixed results.

The biggest issue with She Said for me is that it focuses on the personal lives and personalities of Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) and Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan). I do not care about the marriages of these two women, and I didn’t need see all the cutaways to the two women getting home late to their respective husbands and children. I was immediately worried when we are introduced to Twohey as she is pregnant and becoming a new mother.

Now I get it. I get why the screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz does it. You have someone who is crazy devoted to work, then has to reshape her life and while doing so, she comes to this investigative story with a new perspective as a new mother. I get it. However, I don’t think it’s done that well. I rooted for Twohey when she talks with Rebecca Corbett (Patricia Clarkson) about how work will help her with her postpartum depression, but the payoff in the context of her relationship to motherhood is never fully paid off.

Yes, she helps complete this story. But when the story wraps, it doesn’t connect back to her child or husband at all.

The same goes for Jodi Kantor’s character. She has an older daughter and her relationship to the Harvey Weinstein story warps when her daughter asks her about rape. Kantor tells her daughter that it is not a joking word and that she should never use it flippantly. These are true lessons, but these scenes where she invades family time with a phone call or interacts with her sassy husband having later dinners are massive drags. They are when I looked away form the screen. This may stem to a bigger problem.

I don’t think Zoe Kazan is good in She Said. I think she gets blown out of the water whenever she has to share the screen with someone else. I wish it wasn’t the case. I really wanted her to be good. I wanted to buy her as this intrepid reporter who uses empathy to connect with her interviewees, but I felt more like she stumbled into things rather than earning them. And I know that is not the reality. I know that is not what actually happened.

For comparisons sake, I have only seen seven movies that Kazan has stared in, and this is her most podium potential role. However, one can argue she performs better in The Big Sick (2017), even though she doesn’t have a ton of speaking time.

I wish I didn’t feel this way, but she suffers beneath other performers.

Carey Mulligan wears complications and the stress of life on her face and delivers a very strong performance. She is grand and deserves consideration for her third Oscar nomination. Mulligan would be in the supporting actress category, so she will have the be up against the award-winning juggernaut Angela Bassett in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022).

Here is the bonkers part. The best performance in She Said is Samantha Morton playing the part of Zelda Perkins. Kantor sits down with Perkins in a British tea shop and this is a one-sided conversation with Perkins taking and dropping the mic. Samantha Morton speaks with outstanding confidence but also embalming her stories with simmering coals of hatred and fear. Of all those interviewees that talk with Kantor and Twohey, Perkins’ testimony is hardest-hitting. You will be KO’d with what she brings to the table.

Samantha Morton is fantastic. Plain and simple.

Zelda Perkins draws the tautest string in terms of the audience’s connection to the victims of Harvey Weinstein. As aforementioned, She Said tried to blend three different angles in this story: the reporters, the victims, and the reporting itself. In faltered with the choice to spotlight Kantor and Twohey. It had mixed results in terms of the victims, and if it weren’t for Morton, the results would have been dimmer.

That leaves the story of the actual reporting.

When She Said focuses on the phone calls, lives in the newsroom, talks about sources or exchange sin cryptic shade…that is when the movie is at its best.

This may just be recent viewing experience, but when Twohey and Kantor are talking with Dean Baquet (Andre Braugher) and Corbett, it reminds me of the best from season five of The Wire. When they are talking sources, talking quotes and working in synergy, it is like a room full of Augustus ‘Gus’ Haynes characters. That banter of double-checking the facts, vetting sources, getting on the record quotes…that is the stuff I live for. It is those conversations that make all-time classics like Spotlight (2015) and All The President’s Men (1976) stand the test of time.

Think about those two. Do we really know anything about the reporters themselves, outside of their jobs? Is there anything about them without a pen, paper or laptop in their hand that is distinguishable?

It all comes back to the biggest shadow cast over She Said. It is the shade thorned with attention and praise. Yes, Twohey and Kantor had outstanding reporting and deserve to be praised for their journalistic work. That does not mean a movie should be made about THEM. From the first trailer there was the worry that the story and the act of journalism would to a back seat to the two major characters, and unfortunately that was not just an editorial choice with the trailer. It was a deliberate choice, one that sinks the movie from its ultimate potential.

She Said is streaming on Peacock.

STANKO RATING: B (3.5/5 Stars)


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