“Living” earns Nighy Oscar nomination

Living (Bill Nighy, Aimee Lou Wood, Alex Sharp) – Glance through Bill Nighy’s filmography and you will quickly notice the tremendous range and breadth of his acting career. In America, he may best be known for playing aging rock star Billy Mack in Love Actually but that would be truly unfortunate. He has been one of Britain’s greatest character actors for four decades.

Living, the remake of the 1952 film Ikiru, is a deeply moving film about a 1950s-era civil servant whose stolid demeanor and empty life change when he receives a terminal cancer diagnosis. His sudden desire to live what life has left for him and to make a difference before he goes makes for a stunning character study.

Nighy plays Mr. Williams, the staid Public Works manager, whose department’s job is mostly to push paper and to consider public projects while supervising a staff of mostly boring bureaucrats who look alike, commute together, and work at a snail’s pace. Williams is highly respected, very prim, and by the book. When he finds out he is gravely ill, he doesn’t tell his son with whom he lives but, instead, heads to the beach where he meets a gadfly who takes him on a booze-filled binge. One day, he runs into one of his former employees, a young woman (Aimee Lou Wood), who has taken an entry-level management job elsewhere. Miss Harris is full of life, which is exactly what Mr. Williams needs and appreciates. Their relationship, purely platonic, opens Williams up. He confides in her; she enjoys his surprising hidden personality.

The third act of the film is touching, heart-rending, satisfying, and hopeful. Nighy’s performance is stunningly reserved yet powerful. He manages to subtly reveal Williams’ transformation through barely perceptible facial expressions and body language that are tightly contained within the confines of this terribly reserved character. That is also a tribute to the tight screenplay, which earned Kazuo Ishiguro an Oscar nomination (the 1952 movie was written by famed Writer/Director Akira Kurosawa).

Most notably, Nighy received a very well-deserved Best Actor Oscar nod for this performance in a year where no real superstars were among the nominated. Most people will miss this film and this exceptional performance, and that would be too bad.

“Tár” will stick with you

Tár (Cate Blanchett, Nina Hoss, Noémie Merlant, Mark Strong) – Katharine Hepburn, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett. We may have reached the time when Ms. Blanchett can be named the successor to the “best actress of her generation” list. With seven Oscar nominations, Blanchett is still far behind the other two. But her two statuettes puts her only one behind Meryl and two behind Kate. Her performance in Tár will certainly be nominated, and she is the frontrunner to win.

Lydia Táris the intense, driven, maniacal conductor of the Berlin Symphony. She is the greatest conductor of her era, a musician of substance who studied under and idolized Leonard Bernstein. She has fought all the battles a woman in a man’s profession needs to fight her way to the top. That journey has taken its toll. Behind that tough, confident, elitist persona is a woman on the brink.

Lydia has a child with her wife or partner, Sharon Goodnow (Nina Hoss), who also is the concertmaster of her orchestra. It’s love and nepotism and dependence and harassment. They are partners for sure, but there is increasingly a power imbalance. As Lydia heads toward the culmination of her career, the completion of the cycle of Gustav Mahler’s work, specifically his Symphony No. 5, she is reaching the brink.

Attuned as she is to music, she starts to hear menacing sounds. She follows a stranger, damaging her face. She fights with Sharon; fires her back-up conductor; denies her assistant, Francesca (Noémie Merlant), the promotion she deserves; and betrays her lead cellist by hand-picking a new, beautiful, young musician to solo with the orchestra in the accompanying piece to the Mahler Fifth Symphony. In the process, she tests her relationships with everyone.

(Spoiler Alert) Lydia is a manipulative, musical genius. She conducts with a physicality that defies description, willing the orchestra to new heights. But her lust for power and perfection ultimately leads to a breakdown and an inevitable descent.

Tár is a haunting, excruciating film with an unforgettable character. Blanchett is brilliant! To prepare, she learned to conduct, to command an orchestra, to learn fluent German, and get physically formidable. It’s the role of a lifetime for an actress whose performances from Blue Jasmine to Bandits to Elizabeth to Notes on a Scandal to The Aviator (as Hepburn) and even Thor create a body of work comparable to the best actresses of their generation.

It’s been 16 years since writer/director/actor Todd Field helmed a major film, Little Children, and over 20 years since his much heralded, five-time Oscar-nominated In the Bedroom. He wrote the Lydia Tár character specifically for Blanchett, and their collaboration is evident.

The film is a tough watch, an emotional experience. Blanchett is glorious!

“The Son” doesn’t shine

The Son (Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern, Vanessa Kirby, Anthony Hopkins) – In 2020, Director/Writer Florian Zeller hit the awards jackpot with six Academy Award nominations, including two wins, for his film, The Father. Anthony Hopkins won Best Actor while Zeller and his co-writer, Christopher Hampton, won for Best Screenplay. It was that movie about the progression and effects of dementia that convinced me to move my mother into a nursing home with a specialty in memory care.

Now comes Zeller’s follow-up film, The Son. Focusing on a teenager experiencing depression, The Son may hit home for many parents who have felt helpless and/or frustrated by their beloved child’s mental health challenges.

Hugh Jackman plays Peter Miller, a busy and ambitious attorney and political aspirant, who is divorced from Kate (played by Laura Dern) with whom their son, Nicholas (Zen McGrath), lives. Kate is frustrated with their son; she’s having trouble relating to him and connecting. And when she finds out that Nicholas hasn’t been to school in weeks – all the time lying to her about his life – she approaches Peter about taking the boy into his home. Peter is reluctant because he and his new wife, Beth (Vanessa Kirby), have a new baby. Injecting Nicholas into the home and requiring Peter to devote more time to his son, would seriously disrupt life for everyone.

But Peter knows his responsibility and accepts it. What ensues is a disturbing, agonizing, and painful family drama that alternates between hope, helplessness, honesty, deception, devotion, and desperation. The movie screams seriousness: there are few happy moments except in flashbacks. Nicholas’ depression touches the life of everyone around him but especially the boy himself. He seems to be making progress; his parents seem to be reconciling; he seems to be integrating into his new home well. And then … I’ll leave that to your viewing.

Jackman is a great showman, displaying his extraordinary talent as a Broadway star (The Music Man), a movie comic book multi-part superhero (Wolverine), and a film superstar (The Greatest Showman, Les Misérables, The Prestige). He lobbied hard to play Peter when he got the script from Zeller.

Dern, who comes from a much-decorated Hollywood family (Oscar winner Bruce Dern and 3-time Oscar nominated Diane Ladd) owns an Oscar of her own and three nominations in total.  She has starred in big budget movies like Jurassic Park but mostly in “little” films like October Sky, Wild, and Marriage Story.

You would think that The Son would be well served by these exceptional talents.  Not so much. The film depends on ensemble, on chemistry.  Zen McGrath, who plays Nicholas, is less than an exceptional actor. The role requires him to show great range, but he seems limited. Even Jackman seems uncomfortable, struggling not only as the conflicted Peter but also to find this character. Dern seems superfluous, a failure of a poor script.

And speaking of superfluous, Anthony Hopkins, the star of Zeller’s The Father, makes a cameo as Peter’s father, a judgmental, super-rich SOB whose disdain for his own son is supposed to make the audience identify with Peter’s drive to solve the mysteries of his son’s illness. But all it does is make us wonder why Peter isn’t emotionally scarred.

The Son is an example of how a poor script can sabotage a potentially deep, compelling film. The movie has too much dialogue and, worse, too much strained dialogue. I predict it won’t even do as well as The Father’s meager $2 million U.S. gross ($25 million worldwide).

The film made the rounds of the film festivals last year (I saw it at the Vancouver International Film Festival) where it got mixed results. Jackman was nominated for Best Actor at the Golden Globes. The film was nominated for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. But by in large, it has been a disappointment.

“Everything Everywhere” tests your senses

Everything Everywhere All at Once (Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, Jamie Lee Curtis) – This is the weirdest, most bizarre, unique film of the year. That doesn’t mean that it’s a must-see film. It’s Clockwork Orange meets The Matrix meets Parasite, and that doesn’t mean it’s as good as any of those.

As proof, I offer this precise dialogue that serves as the premise of the movie: “When you put everything on a bagel, nothing matters.” The film is the quest to enter the bagel or to stop anyone from entering the bagel. Really!

Everything Everywhere All at Once is a mind-bending, optically spectacular, occasionally funny film from The Dans – Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert – two music video empresarios who have turned to film, most notably 2016’s Swiss Army Knife.  I have no idea what drugs they were on when they conceived of this film. The execution is flawless, I think. But that might depend on what they were trying to do: blow my mind, I suppose.

Michelle Yeoh, known best for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and the Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies, plays Evelyn, the co-owner of a laundromat about to celebrate its anniversary. She has long since abandoned her dream of being a professional singer in favor of being a frustrated wife, a bossy mother, a reverential daughter, and a mediocre businesswoman. Her innocent, bumbling husband, Waymond (2023 Golden Globe winner Ke Huy Quan), seen somersaulting around the laundromat on surveillance video, is about to file for divorce. Her rebellious daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu), is decidedly not joyful, due to mom’s disapproval of seemingly everything, including Joy’s new girlfriend. Her father (veteran James Hong), who she reveres and cares for, started the laundromat and lives above it with the family.

Unfortunately, the business is under IRS audit, led by wicked, chain-smoking Deirdre Beaubeirdre (bananfana Beafeirdre?), played deliciously by Jamie Lee Curtis. Suddenly, in the middle of the audit appointment, all normalcy ends. Waymond takes his glasses off and starts explaining to Evelyn in a more authoritative voice that she holds the key to saving the universe and must follow him into the dangerous multiverse. Apparently, everyone lives multiple lives in alternate universes, and the prospects are not good without Evelyn’s intervention. It is important to return to the alphaverse, where Waymond is from.

Why her? Well … follow me here … she must confront and beat back Jobu Tupaki, who apparently intends to destroy the universe where, as stated previously, nothing matters. We meet Jobu, who is really Joy (in variously bizarre costumes) in an alternate universe.

It’s all so confusing to explain. We see Evelyn in various lives – as a famous singer, as a martial artist, and much more. “You’re capable of anything because you’re so bad at everything,” Waymond tells her.

From here, the movie is all visual effects, CGI, slow motion, motion capture, and martial arts. And yes, there is some touching drama, too, that will keep you confused and uncertain right to the end. For example, will Jobu and Evelyn go into the bagel? Hey, I’m serious here.

Maybe this is all just a COVID fever dream!  With more than $100 million in box office and exceptional critical reviews, this is one of the most hyped films of Oscar season.  If you’re up to 139 minutes of “wow,” this is your film. It’s already available on Showtime, Hulu and elsewhere.

“Banshees” is one of the year’s most memorable films

The Banshees of Inisherin (Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon) – Martin McDonagh has directed four feature films and one short. He won the Oscar for Live Action Short Film for Six Shooter in 2004 while his Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was nominated for 2017’s Best Picture and won two Oscars from seven nominations. His first feature film, In Bruges, earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. This is one talented filmmaker.

Three of his four features have starred Colin Farrell: Seven Psychopaths, In Bruges and The Banshees of Inisherin. Everyone I know who watched In Bruges loves it in a reverential way because it’s funny, entertainingly violent, and quirky. It tells the story of a pair of mostly bumbling hitmen. Farrell’s sidekick in In Bruges is played by fellow Irishman Brendan Gleeson, the wonderful character actor twenty years his senior. At its heart, In Bruges is a buddy film with a fascinating setting and a ridiculously twisted plot.

The Banshees of Inisherin, written and directed by McDonagh, reunites Farrell and Gleeson but in a setting far from Bruges. The fictional island of Inisherin, located off the west coast of Ireland, is both idyllic and isolated. Set in 1923, the film centers on Pádraic (Farrell), who ambles through life living with his spinster sister (Kerry Condon in a masterfully understated performance), taking care of their animals, and regularly visiting the one pub on the island. As the film opens, Pádraic is trying to hook up with his longtime best friend, Colm (Gleeson). For whatever reason, Colm is not interested in joining his friend.

When confronted about it at the pub, Colm coldly declares that he no longer likes Pádraic, finds him boring, and doesn’t want to waste any of the rest of his life in a friendship with him.  Colm wants to play his violin and create a musical legacy before he dies, and he doesn’t have time for his “dull” friend.  Confused, bewildered, and incredulous, Pádraic wants an explanation for the sudden rejection. Colm keeps pushing him away while Pádraic won’t take “stay away from me” for an answer. The break-up of the bromance turns bizarre and barbaric. Beware the banshee!

This wonderful character study won Best Actor at the Golden Globes. And the film won Best Picture in a musical or comedy. This film is neither. It is a totally engrossing, heart-breaking, stomach-churning evaporation of friendship and love with touches of dark humor and irony. It’s one of those films you will be talking about for weeks. It is streaming now on HBO Max.

Hanks goes grumpy in “Otto”

A Man Called Otto (Tom Hanks, Mariana Treviño) – Fredrik Backman’s book, A Man Called Ove, was an international sensation, spending 42 weeks on the New York Times’ Best Seller List. It spawned a wonderful Swedish film by the same name that was nominated for an Oscar as Best Foreign Film. It earned $3.5 million in the U.S. and $30 million worldwide.

Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, Hollywood’s “first couple,” watched Ove and decided it was right up their alley. They formed a production company, Artistic Films (supplementing his Playtone studio), bought the rights from a small Swedish studio and produced A Man Called Otto. They hired successful director, Marc Forster, who helmed Finding Neverland, Monster’s Ball, Stranger Than Fiction and The Kite Runner, and convinced an actor named … Tom Hanks … to star.

The two movies are almost identical. The Swedish film is more highly rated by critics and viewers but, really, they have the same feel and similar creative treatments. However, the new version has Otto instead of Ove and doesn’t require subtitles. And did I mention that it stars America’s favorite guy, Tom Hanks?

A Man Called Otto could have been named Grumpy Old Man but there was another movie with two grumps, one of whom was Walter Matthau, who would have been perfect in this film had he not been … you know … dead (too soon?). The problem with the American version is that we all know Tom Hanks is “the nicest guy in Hollywood.”

His serious roles, of which there are many, specialize in his character’s earnestness (Bridge of Spies, Saving Private Ryan, The Post, Philadelphia, Captain Phillips), likeability (Forrest Gump, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), and everyman good nature (Sully, Larry Crowne, The Terminal). Grumpy, curmudgeon, and kvetch are not words we associate with him.

The Swedish film has the advantage of a star, Rolf Lassgård, who nobody in America knows. That anonymity helps Ove; Hanks’ familiarity hurts Otto. From the beginning, we know that Otto is going to turn into a nice guy after all. We know that the foreign family that moves in across the street will win his heart. We know that his utter sadness over losing his wife will eventually be replaced by finding the reason to live on.

That makes for a very predictable, but nonetheless enjoyable, story that audiences will love. You’ll shed a tear; forget that it’s cold, rainy or snowy outside; and go home smiling once again about the latest Tom Hanks film. Like Ticket to Paradise, a breezy, star-studded feel-good film, A Man Called Otto is a welcome placebo amidst a pandemic, political polarization, and pitiful populism.

Lest my alliteration becomes pedantic (it might be too late), I suggest you take a couple of hours to watch A Man Called Otto with pop and popcorn in hand. 

Big & Bawdy Babylon Blasts Off

Babylon (Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Diego Calva, Jean Smart) – It’s bawdy. It’s gaudy. It’s an orgy, a spectacle, and a visual buffet. And that all happens before the title of the film appeared on the screen. Babylon, helmed by La La Land and Whiplash writer/director Damien Chazelle, is a “big,” colossal movie. Nothing about it is subtle, muted, or intimate.

Babylon is not for everyone, maybe not for most people. It’s profane, loud, and occasionally gross. But it is also well-acted, meticulously photographed, and mesmerizing. It boasts a killer soundtrack created by Justin Hurwitz, Chazelle’s former college roommate and frequent collaborator. If you listen closely, you’ll even here a creative reprise of the melody line from La La Land’s “Someone in the Crowd.” Music beats at the heart of all of Chazelle’s films. He paces his movies rhythmically, and the music is almost a character in all of them.

Babylon tells the story of Hollywood from the mid-1920s through the late 1930s, the transition from silent films to the “talkies.” In Chazelle’s telling, Hollywood was the wild, wild West, a place of excesses, individualism, and creativity.

Our main characters include Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt), the biggest star of pre-talking pictures. He is essentially Douglas Fairbanks, the handsome, swashbuckling leading man who commands the screen, the audience, and the party circuit. Then there’s Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie), the aspiring actress who believes people are either stars or not … even before they have done anything. She’s unapologetically brazen, sexy, and conspicuous; she may even be talented. There’s Manny Torres (Diego Calva), a Mexican journeyman who provides whatever is needed to entertain Hollywood’s elites and hangers-on.  Chazelle blasts us through Conrad’s fall, Nellie’s ascension, and Torres’ fever dream.

As always, Chazelle features incredible jazz in the party scenes, throughout the film, and in the story of Sidney Palmer (Adepo), the trumpet empresario whose evolution from struggling musician to movie star reveals the racial history of Hollywood. We even have the gossip columnist, Elinor St. John (Jean Smart), who makes and breaks stars. She, like Hedda Hopper, is always in the know and always in the show.

After the opening half hour of debauchery, the film exposes the characters’ relationships, the realities of Tinseltown and the behind-the-scenes secrets of moviemaking. It will shatter any myths you might still hold. This isn’t exactly a love letter to Hollywood. It tells the story of the evolution of film from its origins to its revolutions of sound, visual effects, music, and color.

Through it all, the sole survivor is the movies … in all their glory. The people come and go; the audience changes; but the movies always survive. This is the message through all three hours and nine minutes. Boy, is this long; too long. The length will hurt the box office as well as test your bladder control. But most importantly, it will exhaust you. The film blasts at you and almost never relents.

Chazelle’s Whiplash provides an uplifting denouement. His La La Land provided a bittersweet ending. Babylon is a city devoted to materialism and sensual pleasure. Imagine what a fitting ending to Babylon would be.

It is important that you are prepared for the wild ride that is Babylon. It is not going to be the most relaxing three hours of your holiday season, but it is one of the biggest, most in-your-face movie experiences you will ever have.

Savor every bite of “The Menu”

The Menu (Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult) – It’s wickedly funny, stunningly dark, and amazingly unpredictable. That The Menu is set in the undeniably trendy world of fine food and haute cuisine makes it even tastier. This savory film skewers the rich, the egotists, and the faux experts, taking a sharp knife to the privileged, elitists and even food critics.

The plot: a dozen people pay $1,250 per person for a night of fine wine and food prepared by perhaps the world’s greatest chef (Ralph Fiennes). To get there, guests take a yacht to a private island where they watch the food prepared by an army of staff, who obey their boss’ every order.

The Menu follows the recipe of Get Out: the deeper you get, the more bizarre the characters and the story. What starts as a small bite into the rich and famous devolves into flawed people getting their just desserts.

The most featured player is Chef Slowik, whose arrogance conflicts with his humble upbringing in Waterloo, Iowa. Even his mother attends the dinner, a lush in the corner of the room swigging fine wine like it is water.

There’s the fawning Tyler (Nicholas Hoult), a disciple of Slowik, who has brought his date, Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy from The Queen’s Gambit). She is beautiful, confident, mouthy, and the least impressed with the whole experience. You just know there is more to this young woman … and indeed there is.

There’s the actor (John Leguizamo) on his way down; the food critic (Janet McTeer) who launched Slowik’s career; the trio of entitled fan boys; the couple (Judith Light and Reed Birney) making their 11th trip to the island; and the restaurant manager (Hong Chau) who is alternately host and enforcer.

Is this a comedy, a horror film, or a thriller? The answer is decidedly yes! And you can step up to the plate for a lot less than $1,250 per person.

You simply must meet “The Fabelmans”

The Fabelmans (Paul Dano, Michelle Williams, Gabriel LaBelle, Judd Hirsch) – As my wife left the theater, she said “I loved that movie.” The last two films we said that about were CODA and, before that, La La Land.

In the 2017 HBO documentary, Spielberg, the celebrated director talked about his evolution from a bullied child to film empresario. The Fabelmans tells Spielberg’s stylized version of his own childhood. Told as a coming-of-age story, it’s an honest homage to his family, who nurtured and shaped the life of this would-be genius.

In a very real sense, The Fabelmans is a personality-driven period piece. Growing up in New Jersey, then Arizona and in Silicon Valley in the mid-1950s and ‘60s, Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle) is a normal kid despite his upbringing.  His father, Burt (Paul Dano), is a brilliant scientist/engineer who works for big-tech companies before that term even existed. He’s career driven but takes time for his family, mostly to teach life’s lessons through facts and explanation. His mother, Mitzi (Michelle Williams) is loving, flighty, artistic, and devoted. She gave up a possible career as a concert pianist for her family.

For fans of the TV series, The Goldbergs, you will recognize Sam as Adam Goldberg with dreams of making movies rather than television shows. But Mitzi Fabelman is nothing like Beverly Goldberg. She isn’t clingy or outrageous. Rather, she is encouraging and nurturing.

The Fabelmans are Jewish and live in a time after World War II when Jews in this country tended to stay in distinct sections of large cities. Even post-Hitler, antisemitism was still common in America. The Fabelmans were almost always the only Jews in the neighborhood. And while they were proud of their heritage and their customs, they sought assimilation.

Spielberg opens the movie with the Fabelmans standing in line to see the 1952 film, The Greatest Show on Earth. Little Sammy is immediately hooked. Fascinated by the crash of a locomotive, he takes a new train set that he gets for Chanukah and tries to recreate it. That causes family havoc. Mom comes up with the idea of filming the simulated crash with dad’s movie camera. Voila! Sammy becomes obsessed with film.

Sammy wants to make a career out of this hobby. Dad does not approve; his son needs to be a doctor, a lawyer, or other professional. But mom, Uncle Boris (Judd Hirsch in a marvelous cameo), and the ever-present “Uncle” Benny (Seth Rogen) support the passion of young Sammy.

The kid shoots everything, particularly family events, which exposes a revelatory moment that heightens the family drama. Undeterred, Sam commits to his cinematic dreams while trying to adjust to high school. It is here that he faces antisemitism, bullying, and ostracism.  But he also attracts his first girlfriend, a shiksa, who is fascinated with Sam’s Jewishness and commits to getting Sammy to accept Jesus. Of course, all he wants is … well, you know.

Spielberg, always the master, weaves this story with sparkling optimism despite some bitter sweetness. Because we know that Sammy (as the young Spielberg) turns out to be extraordinarily successful, we never feel like The Fabelmans will degenerate into sadness.

The movie winks at Spielberg’s future storytelling of wide-eyed wonderment, sense of adventure, cunning playfulness, family dynamics, and Jewish identity.

Spielberg cast the film like he was casting his family and it shows. Paul Dano, one of those actors who never gives a bad performance while always playing oddballs, hits just the right notes as Burt Fabelman. Michele Williams, who seems to earn an Oscar nomination for every part she plays (she has four), captures Mitzi’s flightiness and conflicts, with perfect pitch. And young Gabriel LaBelle has the hardest job, capturing Spielberg’s temperament, zeal, thirst, and emotional ride.

The Fabelmans is, by movie standards, a “little movie” with big aspirations and a charm that will make you smile and say, “I love that movie.”

“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.