Two-time Academy Award® nominee Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman, An Education) and Emmy nominee Zoe Kazan (The Plot Against America, The Big Sick) star as New York Times reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, who together broke one of the most important stories in a generation – a story that shattered decades of silence around the subject of sexual assault in Hollywood and impelled a shift in American culture that continues to this day.
From the Academy Award® winning producers of 12 Years a Slave, Moonlight, Minari, Selma and The Big Short and the Oscar®-nominated producer of Zero Dark Thirty and American Hustle, the film is based on the New York Times investigation by Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey and Rebecca Corbett and the New York Times bestseller, She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey.
A testament to the incalculable importance of investigative journalism, She Said details the journey of reporters and editors engaged in the unrelenting pursuit of the truth and highlights the courage of survivors and witnesses who chose to come forward to stop an accused serial predator from committing further harm. Together, their commitment and fortitude sparked a global conversation, helped propel the #MeToo movement, and fuelled a reckoning of the system that had enabled him.
At its heart, She Said is an inspiring true story about people, many of them women, many of them mothers, who summoned the courage to speak out and seek justice, not just for themselves but for those in the future, both in the U.S. and around the globe. The film is a compelling, moving reminder of the power of individual people, armed with determination and grit, to, together, change the world.
The film co-stars Oscar® nominee Patricia Clarkson (Shutter Island, Pieces of April), Emmy winner Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Street, Thief), Tony winner Jennifer Ehle (Zero Dark Thirty, Pride and Prejudice), with Academy Award® nominee Samantha Morton (Minority Report, In America) and Emmy and Golden Globe nominee Ashley Judd (Double Jeopardy, Bug) as herself.
She Said is directed by Emmy winner Maria Schrader (I’m Your Man, Unorthodox limited series) from a screenplay by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, screenwriter of the Oscar® winning film Ida. The film is produced by Academy Award® winners Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner for Plan B Entertainment and is executive produced by Oscar® winner Brad Pitt and Lila Yacoub and by Oscar® nominee Megan Ellison and Sue Naegle for Annapurna Pictures.
In a luxury suite, a robe is discarded on a bed; a pair of cheap white plimsolls lie discarded on a plush carpet. In voiceover, women describe their experiences of sexual harassment, assault and rape in encounters with film producer Harvey Weinstein. Sometimes faltering, mediated by phone, or telling a story they have tried to tell many times before, women’s voices are clear: this is the truth, and something must change.
An adaptation of journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s account of their investigation into Weinstein for the New York Times, She Said is a bold and vital film. Early on, Times editor Rebecca Corbett (Patricia Clarkson) asks why sexual violence is ‘so hard to address’; the film sets out to answer that question, evoking the claustrophobic conspiracy of the systems of power – and the journalists, film professionals, lawyers and accountants who uphold them – that silence survivors.
That it does so by centring women’s experiences is an extraordinary achievement. Natasha Braier’s cinematography is intimate when women recall trauma, but never invasive. Many of the survivors mentioned in the film do not appear onscreen at all. Rather, we watch Kantor and Twohey as they listen to women speaking, which provides the leads with scope for delicate performances. Where Kazan is hopeful and just the right amount of naïve as Jodi (‘What do you mean, I’m not intimidating?’ she asks her colleague in a rare moment of humour), Carey Mulligan is self-assured and cynical as Megan. Alongside dialogue and voiceover, She Said maximises the dramatic possibilities of mundane sonic elements, with phones vibrating in the night, and text messages asserting a sudden ‘ping’ to curtail the anxious crescendo of the score.
Some women, including actress Ashley Judd, appear as themselves; in one chilling scene, as a disembodied camera advances eerily down an empty hotel corridor, we hear Ambra Battilana Gutierrez’s covert recording of an encounter with Weinstein on the sound track. Blending dramatic and documentary elements, in a film about believing women, risks creating tension between fiction and truth, but in She Said it just about works to bolster the film’s authenticity. An underlying narrative about self-sacrifice is less successful, though. As Kantor and Twohey struggle to separate work from home, their daughters become proxies for all the would-be survivors they want to keep safe from harm. Twohey encouraging survivors to speak out so that ‘together we can […] protect women in the future’ warrants at least some interrogation: it’s a proposition that burdens survivors with going public with their trauma to fix a world they did not break.
But She Said remains a call to arms in the struggle against patriarchy, and suggests that both journalism and cinema make a difference to our lives. For as the camera lingers on the dreadful scenes of an abuser’s hotel room, women’s voices fill the space he once inhabited. Survivors become bigger, louder, and more powerful, with their own enduring cinematic legacy.
Rebecca Harrison, Sight and Sound, bfi.org.uk/sight-and-sound, 17 October 2022
Directed by: Maria Schrader
an Annapurna/Plan B production Executive Producers: Brad Pitt, Lila Yacoub, Megan Ellison, Sue Naegle
Produced by: Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Lexi Barta
Casting: Francine Maisler
Screenplay by: Rebecca Lenkiewicz
Based on the New York Times investigation by: Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey, Rebecca Corbett
Based on the book She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement by: Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey
Director of Photography: Natasha Braier
Editor: Hansjörg Weißbrich
Production Designer: Meredith Lippincott
Music: Nicholas Britell
Carey Mulligan (Megan Twohey)
Zoe Kazan (Jodi Kantor)
Patricia Clarkson (Rebecca Corbett)
Andre Braugher (Dean Baquet)
Jennifer Ehle (Laura Madden)
Samantha Morton (Zelda Perkins)
Courtesy of Universal Pictures International
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Programme notes and credits compiled by the BFI Documentation Unit
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