“She Said” missed a real opportunity

She Said (Carey Mulligan, Zoe Kazan, Patricia Clarkson, Andre Braugher) – Journalism movies are one of my favorite genres. From All the President’s Men to Spotlight, The Post, Shattered Glass, and even State of Play, the process of reporters uncovering the truth is a lesson in perseverance, hard work, resourcefulness, and patience.

She Said, based on the book by New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, dramatizes the painstaking process of uncovering the sexual scandal involving Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. The Times’ investigation into Weinstein’s manipulations, proclivities, criminality, and narcissism (as well as Ronan Farrow’s reporting in The New Yorker) led to the #MeToo movement.

Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan star as the reporters while Patricia Clarkson and Andre Braugher play the editors in German director Maria Schrader’s film. Relying on off-the-record interviews with angry, embarrassed, and reluctant actresses as well as ex-employees of Weinstein’s Miramax Studios, the reporters relentlessly pursue leads, knock on doors, and reach out to hard-to-find victims and sources.

As with other films of this ilk, the movie does a fine job of depicting the investigative reporting process, but it seeks to do more. Both reporters are happily married mothers of young children, and Schrader weaves their home lives with their career pursuits, almost depicting them as super-human even as the Weinstein investigation occupies their almost every thought.

While the film reveals the frustration of trying to find home/life balance, it inadvertently underplays Weinstein’s own dehumanizing behavior.

Schrader makes the conscious decision not to depict the many encounters that women were subjected to in Weinstein’s hotel suites. Instead, she relies on verbal descriptions, tape recordings, or interviews that just aren’t dramatically compelling.

If ever there were a need for some level of graphic depictions of unspeakable, horrific sexual harassment, manipulation or even rape by Weinstein, this is it. After all, the movie is already rated R, mainly earned by the reporters’ frequent use of the “F” word.

Schrader tries to create drama in other ways, mostly through an intrusive score. The movie bogs down in scenes of the reporters walking through New York streets; interviewing victims and sources in numerous bars, coffee shops, and restaurants; and making interminable phone calls.

The movie is very earnest. Among the leads, the most outstanding performance belongs to Kazan, which is surprising given that Mulligan and Clarkson have been Oscar-nominated previously. Braugher, who plays Dean Baquet, is just okay. Ashley Judd is the only victim who depicts herself in the film while Gwyneth Paltrow and Rose McGowan apparently opted out. That is too bad. The film would have been more effective if they had at least voiced their own depictions.

She Said was a landmark journalistic investigation and an important book.  It could have been an equally important movie in the mold of Spotlight. But alas, it isn’t.

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