She Said Review: Conflicting Yet Important Film With Great Performances [SDIFF] – Screen Rant

She Said is a good-enough recount of a crucial story, but the unreasonably long runtime struggles to sustain its intended conviction.
The #MeToo movement, founded by American activist Tarana Burke in 2006, broadly reappeared across the media in 2017 after a New York Times report detailed overwhelming sexual assault allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. The disclosure, written by journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, unveiled decades of abuse at the hands of the once idolized film producer. With such a profound shift in the tolerance of abusive workplace cultures and confidence to stand up to such cruelties, it’s no surprise that a story of this caliber has made its way to the big screen. Director Maria Schrader brings to life Kantor and Twohey’s novel, which uncovers the process of taking down powerful men who misuse their power. She Said is a good-enough recounting of a crucial story, but the unreasonably long runtime struggles to sustain its intended conviction.
Throughout her feature, Schrader makes a valiant attempt to demonstrate the soul-crushing effort it took to get this unrelenting and life-altering story published. As the story follows the leading journalists, Kantor (Zoe Kazan) and Twohey (Carey Mulligan), viewers see that their lives never stopped for the story and vice versa. Both women have families, with young children that need their attention, which contributes to the idea that life goes on. The film does a great job showcasing that neither interfered with the other. And ultimately, their persistence and unrelenting pursuit of the truth to assist the victims with getting the justice that they needed is inspiring.
Related: She Said Trailer Reveals The NYT Harvey Weinstein Investigation
Despite these triumphant features of the narrative, She Said struggles with pacing issues. The first act takes a considerable amount of time to find its footing, rapidly switching between sexual assault cases on which the journalists are working. Perhaps it was a way for screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz to emphasize how prevalent these issues are, but a confined first act could have set the film on a right path. That, in combination with spending a little too much time on the details, contributes to a long runtime that fails to keep the effect established by the conversations with the various characters who portrayed Weinstein’s many victims. Regardless, it’s easy to recognize the importance of such details.
The most conflicting thing about She Said is that, at times, it feels as if the film is just a giant pat on Hollywood’s back for finally doing something about their predator problem. Frequent name-drops of big-name actresses and guest appearances tend to sway it in that direction. Thankfully, Lenkiewicz’s screenplay spends as much time with the lesser known victims as it does its stars, which adds much-needed levels of integrity. Still, in the grand scheme of things, there are still abusers who remain unscathed in Hollywood, and they are as successful as their last projects long after revelations of their misdoings. To that end, it’s often hard to take the film seriously while knowing it is yet another Hollywood production.
However, one of the most powerful elements of Schrader’s feature is the sensitivity with which she shapes the storytelling despite feelings of the film’s ironic appraisal. Heading into this film, empathy may already be a baseline emotion experienced by viewers. But after thorough conversations between the journalists and multiple women, the follow-up reactions may be disgust for the perpetrator and complete compassion for his victims. There’s also not a moment in these discussions in which Mulligan and Kazan don’t deliver great performances. They are steadfast and reliable, maintaining the intriguing and ever-potent components of the story.
A testament to the power of investigative journalism, She Said highlights the courage of survivors and witnesses who choose to come forward to stop a serial predator from continuing on a rampage of assault. Their integrity and dedication towards bringing this story to light amplified the #MeToo movement even further in Hollywood and around the world. Though it tends to overstay its welcome, She Said takes its time sharing the experiences of women in a way that leaves enough impact to make one want to stand up to the systematic mistreatment of women in their own workplace. It’s enough to temporarily put aside any growing contempt for an industry that still has these existing problems today.
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She Said screened at the 2022 San Diego International Film Festival, and it is set to release in theaters on November 18. The film is 128 minutes long and rated R for descriptions of sexual assault and language.
Brittany Witherspoon is a film/TV critic and editor based in southern California. She is the EIC of Pop Culture Reviews and has bylines at Film Threat, Collider, and Cinema Debate. Brittany prides herself on being a champion of projects for and by underrepresented groups and an advocate for first-time filmmakers. When she’s not catching the latest horror film or attending festivals, you can find Brittany mentoring scientists in her day job, scoffing at her sports teams, or travelling the world. Whatever the case, her life’s goal is to have fun and meet some great people along the way.


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