Movie review: Hard-hitting 'She Said' has Oscar potential

Fred Hawson

Posted at Nov 23 2022 08:21 AM

Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan in 'She Said'
Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan in 'She Said'

In 2016, New York Times journalist Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) released an expose about candidate Donald Trump's sexual misbehavior against women. Meanwhile, fellow NYT journalist Jodi Cantor (Zoe Kazan) was working on a separate story about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, and how he had been sexually harassing actresses who were up for roles in films produced by his company, Miramax Films.

After Trump won the election, Twohey worked together with Cantor on her story. Actresses like Rose McGowan, Ashley Judd and Gwyneth Paltrow told their stories, but were not willing to go on the record. They then began to turn their focus to interviewing women behind the scenes, like Zelda Perkins (Samantha Morton), Rowena Chiu (Angela Yeoh) and Laura Madden (Jennifer Ehle), who also fell victim to Weinstein's perversions. 

Films inspired by the investigation process of real-life journalists in order to uncover the truth about a controversial crime usually attract Oscar attention. Good examples of these films which were nominated for Oscars were: "All the President's Men" (1976) about the Watergate scandal, "The Post" (2017) about the Pentagon Papers, and the one that won Best Picture "Spotlight" (2015) about sexual misconduct in the Catholic clergy. 

The #MeToo movement was begun in 2006 by activist Tarana Burke to provide victims of sexual abuse a venue to vent the internal turmoil. #MeToo reemerged into public consciousness in 2017 and that was because of the story told here in "She Said." The momentum of that rebirth enabled several movies about real-life #MeToo stories to come out since then, including "Bombshell" (2019) and "Athlete A" (2020).

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This year, there are three true-to-life films with a #MeToo theme vying for awards attention. These are:"Tar" by Todd Fields (where Cate Blanchett is touted to win her third acting Oscar), "Women Talking" by Sarah Polley (where Claire Foy and Jessie Buckley are up for supporting actress consideration), and this one "She Said" by Maria Schrader (where Zoe Kazan is up for Best Actress and co-star Carey Mulligan for Supporting).

While Kazan seemed to be onscreen longer, her character Jodi Cantor seemed to be more reactive than proactive. It always felt that each of her scenes -- with Mulligan, Morton, Yeoh, Ehle, and Patricia Clarkson (as her editor Rebecca Corbett) -- were memorable because of the other person she was with in the scene, not really her. I do not know the real personality of the real Cantor, but Kazan played her as low-key in spite of her inner strength. 

Carey Mulligan was nominated for Best Actress for the second time last year for a #MeToo adjacent role, playing a woman avenging her friend who committed suicide in "Promising Young Woman." This time she is again gaining Oscar buzz for her impactful performance here as Megan Twohey, a reporter who worked on both the stressful stories of Trump and Weinstein while going through her personal journey of first-time motherhood. 

Director Maria Schrader told the stories very matter-of-factly, as hard-hitting as the evening news. No names nor sordid details were spared when it came to the descriptions of impropriety, which fortunately were not given a visual flashback to spare us from disgusting images. The article was published, so the ending was not really a surprise. But the main point was the difficulty and suspense Cantor and Twohey went through to reach that point.

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."

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