“She Said” is available on for streaming on Peacock
"She Said’ and Other Movies on the Business of “News”
By: Anthony Stoeckert
Arts News Now writer Anthony Stoeckert Takes a Look on The Business of News in Film
It’s no secret that Americans doesn’t hold the media and journalists in high regard, but that doesn’t stop Hollywood from making movies about reporters. While film journalists are often villainous or over-the-top—Kirk Douglas in Ace in the Hole, Burt Lancaster in Sweet Smell of Success, Rita Skeeter in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire—there are films that strive to be realistic and portray reporters as individuals who do important, noble work.
The most recent of these is She Said, an excellent film that underwhelmed at the box office and is now streaming on Peacock (which by the way is a great destination for recent movies).
She Said tells the story of Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey (respectively played by Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan), the reporters for The New York Times who investigated the allegations of abuse and sexual misconduct against Harvey Weinstein, the all-powerful movie executive behind the studios, Miramax and the Weinstein Company. The movie opens in 2016, and Twohey is writing a story on then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s treatment of women. Meanwhile, Kantor is chasing a story about Weinstein assaulting the actress Rose McGowan. She makes progress and also chases allegations that Weinstein assaulted Ashley Judd and Gwyneth Paltrow, but no one will go on the record.
Twohey and Kantor team up, and we witness the detailed and slow-moving progress they make in getting the story. Not that the movie is slow. Director Maria Schrader and screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz do a masterful job of creating drama and building tension through a story that is largely about two people who are trying to make something happen, the something being finding sources who will go on the record and thus allow the Times to actually publish their reporting.
The movie also shows the impact of what Weinstein did to women, as women both famous and not-famous tell their stories and grapple with going on the record. Kantor goes to a house where she encounters a source’s husband and discovers that even he didn’t know what happened to his wife. There are also people who are complicit in what Weinstein did, some of whom knew he was up to something, but didn’t know the extent, and others who likely knew more than they want to admit.
Drama is also created as the two women learn that Ronan Farrow is publishing his own Weinstein story for the New Yorker. We also see how their work affected Kantor and Twohey. Both are mothers, and Twohey is experiencing postpartum depression, but thankfully, there is no cliché scene of a husband saying “I need you, your kids need you!” Instead, we get an idea of the work and the support it takes for Kantor and Twohey to get their work done.
The movie isn’t perfect. The way the filmmakers portray celebrities is often distracting, as Judd plays herself, while Paltrow is heard only over the phone and another actress voices McGowan. We also hear an uncanny Weinstein impression, but in a scene where Weinstein meets with the reporters and Times editors, his face is unseen and we don’t actually hear what’s said. I’m sure the filmmakers would say this was done for dramatic purposes, but I felt like something was missing. I was especially distracted by James Austin Johnson’s voice cameo as Trump—it’s a brilliant impression, but it’s also so distinctively Johnson’s that I couldn’t help but think of Saturday Night Live, where the actor brilliantly portrays Trump.
She Said also skates over allegations that the Times backed off a previous story on Weinstein’s behavior nearly 10 years earlier. But that doesn’t take away from the power of this movie, in which a woman simply agreeing to go on the record with her story, regardless of the consequences, left me overwhelmed. It deserves a bundle of Oscar nominations.
And after you’ve watched She Said, here are some other recent journalism movies to watch.
Spotlight stars Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci, and Michael Keaton
Spotlight. Quite simply, the best movie ever made about newspapers. Just about every review of She Said has noted the influence of Spotlight, and a few people I’ve recommended She Said to have responded with “Is it as good as ‘Spotlight?’” Tom McCarthy’s 2015 movie deservedly won the Best Picture Oscar and tells the story of Boston Globe reporters chasing down the story of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests. The performances from Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci, and Michael Keaton are pitch perfect. It’s a lesson on how to tell a true story in a dramatic and touching way without becoming melodramatic. Available on HBO Max.
The Post. Streep! Hanks! Spielberg! Meh. The Post is entertaining, but drips with sentimental nobility. Spielberg’s recent movies are so desperate to be “important” that he often gets in his own way, despite some good storytelling and suspense. Take a scene where a Washington Post reporter shares the Supreme Court’s New York Times Co. v. United States decision. It’s recited the way an actor would say, not a newspaper staffer. Available for purchase and rent on Amazon Prime and Apple TV.
All the President’s Men. The granddaddy of all these movies remains powerful after nearly fifty years later. Based on the book by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, All the President’s Men stars Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as the two reporters who broke countless Watergate stories for the Washington Post. It truly shows the work of newspaper reporting and doesn’t glamorize it. It also features great work by Jason Robards and Jane Alexander, whose brief scene earned her an Oscar nomination. Spotlight and She Said are better, but All the President’s Men set the model. Available on HBO Max.