Written by: Robin C. Farrell | November 17th, 2022
She Said (Maria Schrader, 2022) 3½ out of 4 stars.
Based on the book of the same title by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, She Said chronicles the investigation of sexual assault in Hollywood. It was Kantor (Zoe Kazan, The Kindness of Strangers) and Twohey (Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman) who originally broke the story of now-imprisoned movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Their hard work uncovered decades of harassment, assault, rape, and settlements, sparking the #MeToo movement.
The film’s strongest attribute is that director Maria Schrader (I’m Your Man) and screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz (Servants) aren’t keen to indulge in either the trauma or graphic depictions of sexual assault. When the deeply sobering accounts are described, the tone is straightforward and grounded. These women are more than just their suffering. The film by no means shies away from the physical danger and impact of assault but brutal recreation is not the point. Instead, She Said concentrates more intentionally on the emotional and mental scars such experiences leave behind long afterwards. The solidarity between Kantor and Twohey is understated but valuable; it’s evident in their determination to amplify these voices from start to finish.
The score—by Nicholas Britell (Cruella)—does tremendous heavy lifting. The writing and performances alike often maintain rigid composure, given the circumstances, made all the more tense as the accompanying melodies indicate the underlying dread, outrage, or anguish playing just under the surface. The music also escalates over the course of the film, allowing it all to work together synergistically.
The film mostly succeeds in avoiding the trap of sounding preachy. Some of the dialogue skews a bit stilted towards the beginning but, overall, nonverbal moments woven throughout the film demonstrate why this fight matters: the almost imperceptible signs of misogyny in everyday life, to which the characters themselves don’t always call attention. One exception, however, might be Twohey’s swift and spectacular takedown of a man hitting on her in a bar. It’s a moment to remember.
It’s easy to compare this film to other top-notch journalism movies such as Spotlight (2015) and All the President’s Men(1976) but at times, the simplicity and even restraint of She Said evokes the likes of Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005). Knowing the outcome of this particular story doesn’t impede the watching experience, as it’s clear that the point is about something much bigger. In the end, She Said delivers exactly what it promises in its title: tis film is about words and the power they can have, and don’t have when left unspoken.