Overcoming fear to bring down a monster: 'She Said' review

Kristofer Purnell - Philstar.com
Overcoming fear to bring down a monster: 'She Said' review
Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan in "She Said"
Universal Pictures

MANILA, Philippines — There was a time when Harvey Weinstein was the most powerful man in Hollywood who believed himself untouchable, but his downfall began with a number of courageous women who overcame fear and silence with the help of determined journalists.

"She Said" is based on the book of the same name by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, the pair of New York Times journalists that investigated the decades of sexual abuse and misconduct by Weinstein, a systemic overreach of power he tried to keep quiet by paying people off.

As of this moment the disgraced producer has already been convicted and is still facing trials for other charges he was slapped with, and it all started when Kantor and Twohey published their piece after rigorous months of work.

It has not been a decade yet since the Best Picture win of "Spotlight," another journalism film which looked into child sex abuse in Boston by Catholic priests, so comparisons will immediately be drawn — however "She Said" does excel on other fronts.

With a subject so delicate, director Maria Schrader and screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz handle the story extremely well by being faithful to the source material while striking the right balance needed for storytelling.

At its core "She Said" focuses on the women involved in the investigation, the two mothers writing the story and the many women who spoke up after being riddled with fear for years.

This depiction of fear is so expertly done by Schrader, Lenkiewicz, cinematographer Natasha Braier, and editor Hansjörg Weißbrich, that it helps visualize why exactly it took great courage for these women to defeat the silence placed on them.

Take the opening shot for example, which sees a young Laura Madden working on a film set then cuts to her running down the street, clearly distraught and frightened.

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Such powerful scenes are repeated whenever Jennifer Ehle's grown up Madden, Samanthan Morton's Zelda Perkins, and Angela Yeoh's Rowena Chiu recount their stories of Weinstein, a haunting cinematic recollection played to a equally haunting score by Nicholas Britell.

These also do not take away from Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan's performances Twohey and Kantor, respectively, as the pair do it with a degree of discipline, ferocity, clearheadedness, and most of all empathy.

It shouldn't come as a surprise to see Mulligan accept such a role and perform it well, looking no further than "Promising Young Woman," but there are times when it's Kazan who is the better actress of the two as she better connects with her co-stars.

There are some concerns that "She Said" comes at a time when Weinstein is still paying the price for his gross actions, but arguably the silence that surrounded such actions has gone on for too long and stories such as these may just be the rallying cry women need.

For perspective, after the opening shot, the journalists are introduced against the backdrop of similar investigations towards Donald Trump — whose political rise attributed to silence — and a damning article that ripped Bill O'Reilly, sparking the hope that Weinstein could be brought down too.

More than 80 women stepped forward after Kantor and Twohey's article was published in 2017, the #MeToo Movement grew in numbers, and people began speaking up more about sexual harassment and holding abusers accountable.

It is because people stand by victims, amplifying their voices, that such progress can be achieved, and if "She Said" can be a visual contribution to that, then there is hope that fear and silence will be nothing but things of the past.

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