She Said, the story of how two The New York Times reporters exposed the abusive conduct of Harvey Weinstein, effectively dramatizes the ins and outs of reporting a big story in which sources are reluctant to talk and the target of the investigation wields significant power.
As the co-founder and the public face of Miramax, Weinstein was a major player in the world of movies, a producer of influence that he evidently used to help those whom he favored and thwart those he didn't.
For some women, the side of the equation on which they landed depended on how they responded to Weinstein's sexual advances, some made in startlingly crude and even criminal fashion.
Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) and Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) revealed that Weinstein, now serving a 23-year prison sentence for rape and sexual assault, had been settling sexual abuse cases with women for years, silencing them with restrictive non-disclosure agreements.
Mulligan's Twohey seems the more aggressive of the two, more seasoned in pitfalls of pre-#MeToo harassment. Early on, we learn that Twohey wrote stories about women who had things to say about Donald Trump’s behavior. She was dejected when the stories appeared to change nothing.
Kazan's Kantor gives the movie a steady beat. Despite discouragement, Kantor persists and she shows that reporters can respect the sensibilities of those with whom they deal. Better yet, her concern never seems like an ingratiating journalistic ploy.
Brief references are made to the home life of each of the women. Husbands aren't upset that their wives are working feverishly, as often happens in such movies. Both women deal with the demands of motherhood. But the movie’s focus remains on the work required to nail the story.
Of the supporting performances, the always interesting Patricia Clarkson proves an unsurprising standout as a Times editor. Samantha Morton makes a strong impression as Zelda Perkins, a woman who once served as a personal assistant to Weinstein. Ashley Judd plays herself, a prominent show business figure who ultimately went public about Weinstein. Jennifer Ehle has a nice turn as Laura Madden, a woman who was battling breast cancer when she told her Weinstein story.
Andre Braugher is convincing as Times editor Dean Baquet, particularly in a couple of scenes depicting terse conversations with Weinstein who tried to derail the story.
Dramatizing the grunt work of journalism isn't easy. At times, it almost looks as if Schrader has made a movie about cell phone calls -- calls that awaken the women from sound sleeps, calls while walking in parks, calls while walking with husbands, calls that disrupt meetings, and on and on.
I'm not sure how the problem could have been resolved; besides, the story and its detail have more to do with the movie's success than cinematic flair.
We only see Weinstein (an actor) from the back in one scene near the end of the movie but we're made to understand the power that he used to impose himself on women, many of them young and naive. Schrader includes a real phone call between Weinstein and Ambra Gutierrez, an Italian model, but she wisely creates no scenes in which we see Weinstein committing his crimes.
That doesn't mean that Weinstein's presence isn't felt throughout. With help from enablers, he abused his position and got away with it -- until some of the women he harmed and two determined reporters helped bring his misdeeds to light.