Review: She Said

Journalism can be a tough nut to crack in film. It’s often ripe for ensemble casts and tends to attract a lot of top tier talent. Some films also can dance around the ‘too soon?’ line. When done right, you can get a classic All The President’s Men or Spotlight. However, for every classic you get a State of Play, Bombshell, The Post, or Kill The Messenger. Not bad films by any means, but forgettable. She Said probably lies somewhere in the middle.

The film from director Maria Schrader (making her American feature film debut) follows a pair of journalists (Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan) as they start to dive into the sexual misconduct of Hollywood mega producer Harvey Weinstein and eventually become a driving factor in the #MeToo movement. It also features an ensemble supporting cast including Patricia Clarkson, Andre Braugher, Jennifer Ehle, Peter Friedman, Zach Grenier, Ashley Judd, and more. Megan (Mulligan) and Jodi (Kazan) definitely own the majority of the film as the de-facto Woodward and Bernstein many of those in the supporting cast get their moments to shine.

One of the popular complaints about this film is that it doesn’t “do much” from a filmmaking standpoint. To a point I understand the criticism. There’s nothing technically impressive about the film and there are few sequences that go beyond dialogue. It even contains the trademark tracking shots through the cubicles of a newspaper office we’ve all come to expect from journalism films. What I don’t understand about this critique is that does the story really require anything more than that? This is very much a fact-based, well researched, story driven film so what exactly were people expecting? Back in 2015 I don’t recall many people walking into Spotlight expecting Mad Max: Fury Road.

The dialogue and the performances are what carry the film. Kazan and Mulligan are both solid in this and Andre Braugher steals the few scenes he’s in. I will say that I’m pretty surprised that Mulligan is getting as much praise as she is. I’ve seen her called a lock for Best Supporting Actress and I even placed her as my winner pick in my initial Oscar predictions but outside of a scene or two her performance didn’t strike me as anything particularly memorable. If anyone should be getting consideration for Best Supporting Actress its Jennifer Ehle.

Mulligan will likely be the film’s best chance at winning anything come awards season. Kazan is on the outside of a very competitive Best Actress race though I wouldn’t rule out a Judas and the Black Messiah situation where both co-leads end up in the supporting categories. Rebecca Lenkiewicz should be in the hunt for a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination. There’s a chance it could slip into the Best Picture race though it won’t be any more than a nomination. However this does feel like a film that people in the industry will want to promote so there’s an outside chance it could make an unexpected run.

She Said does manage to tell an effective journalism story while pulling no punches from painting a picture of how big a scumbag Weinstein is. It’s a powerful film no doubt though it lacks that special something that elevates it into something amazing. To say it’s a slow burn is tricky because it’s definitely slow and there’s definitely a burn but the two never seem to intersect.

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