Release Date(s)2022 (January 10, 2023)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: C+
She Said is aptly titled. This is a film about women either relating their personal stories about horrendous behavior in the workplace or being too afraid to expose it. It’s harrowing in its portrayal of how many lives were ruined and how a couple of journalists attempted to peel away layers of resistance to get to the truth.
Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) and Meghan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) are investigative reporters for The New York Times who get a tip about allegations of sexual abuse by powerful film producer Harvey Weinstein. Their editors agree that they should pursue the story. They devote themselves to ferreting out and piecing together bits of information concerning the allegations from non-disclosure agreements, court settlements, phone calls, and meetings with sources. Their biggest hurdle is convincing people to talk on the record.
Mulligan and Kazan effectively portray reporters determined to break what they see as a big story. Their expressions speak eloquently as they hear the horror stories of women victimized, balancing compassion with their ultimate goal of gathering information. In one scene, as they talk in a restaurant, a man approaches them with suggestive comments. They tell him they’re in a meeting, but the man persists. Incensed at being objectified, Mulligan’s Twohey screams at him to leave them alone. It’s a good moment and encapsulates her frustration, anger, and indignation.
Excellent supporting performances include those of Samantha Morton as a former assistant to Weinstein who was so traumatized she left the industry; Jennifer Ehle as a woman who’s reluctant to go on the record and have her name revealed; and Ashley Judd, who actually was a key figure in the Weinstein scandal, as herself.
Reminiscent of All the President’s Men and Spotlight, the film deals with the day-to-day work of discovering, following up on, and verifying information about massive wrongdoing by people who have reason to believe they’re untouchable. Though we know that Weinstein was eventually charged and arrested, the film creates a good deal of suspense as Kantor and Twohey collaborate on what would become one of the biggest stories of the decade. The film stays primarily with the reporters as they do the legwork over a three-year period to finally expose the truth.
Rebecca Lekiewicz’s screenplay contains more than the usual amount of dialogue for a film, but director Maria Schrader keeps the pace brisk so that there are no lulls or dead spots. On the contrary, as the film progresses and the reporters get closer to their goal, tension escalates.
The screenplay humanizes the reporters by showing how they must juggle family with work. Both are mothers of young children with husbands who are the primary caretakers. This answers any question about whether the women are prioritizing their work over their families. They’re working for supportive bosses, editors Dean Baquet (Andre Braugher) and Rebecca Corbett (Patricia Clarkson), with the resources of the “newspaper of record” to back them. There are suggestions that their inquiry could put them in danger, but this never seems to happen except for a brief scene in which a car follows Kantor on a dark street at night before speeding off.
Schrader doesn’t sensationalize the film with graphic depictions of what the victims experienced. The drama lies in the journalistic process and how powerless and traumatized the exploited women continued to feel.
She Said was captured digitally by director of photography Natasha Braier in the ARRIRAW (3.4K) with Arri Alexa Mini cameras and Cooke S4/i lenses, and finished as a Digital Intermediate at the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Universal’s Blu-ray features a picture that’s sharp with good detail in the contents of newsroom desks, furnishings in Jodi Kantor’s home, clothing, and outdoor scenes. The color palette tends toward muted or darker colors, with few bright, primary hues dominating. Complexions are rendered naturally. In newsroom scenes, lighting is extremely bright and even, whereas a restaurant scene in which a reporter meets with a source uses softer illumination.
The soundtrack is English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Other soundtrack options are Spanish 5.1 DTS Digital Surround, French 5.1 Digital Surround, and English DVS (Descriptive Video Service). Subtitle options include English SDH, Spanish, and French. In a film with a lot of dialogue, the delivery is clear and distinct for its entirety and emerges primarily from the center channel. Ambient newsroom noise is heard under the dialogue and street sounds can be heard when the reporters knock on doors to get information. Nicholas Britell’s score never beats the viewer over the head to accompany key revelations, but builds tension as Kantor and Twohey investigate. Overall, the sound offers an excellent listening experience.
Universal’s 2-Disc Blu-ray combo pack includes a DVD and a Digital Code on a paper insert. Bonus materials include the following:
- Breaking the Story (6:43)
- Theatrical Trailer (2:32)
Breaking the Story – The actual reporters who worked on the story—Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor—discuss how the events are represented in the film, which shows the power of journalism. Speaking about their careers, they note that it’s an “honor to do this kind of work.” The reporters weren’t scared for themselves but were afraid for their sources. Twohey and Kantor couldn’t change what happened in the past, but knew that by going on the record, the victimized women could prevent sexual misconduct from continuing. Their silence would mean a predator could go on to hurt others. Both reporters regard She Said as a “wonderful depiction of journalism.” They note that “our ending is everybody else’s beginning.”
She Said provides a close-up look at the persistence, frustration, dead ends, stonewalling, and tough work of investigative reporting without going down a path of exploitation. It’s a sober, well-acted film that has a documentary feel but benefits from Hollywood polish.
- Dennis Seuling