What ‘She Said’ understands about investigative journalism

Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning exposé on producer Harvey Weinstein was undeniably momentous. His investigative reports for The New York Times helped kick-start a cultural reckoning on sexual harassment and abuse across a wide range of industries. In 2019, the duo chronicled their work in the book. She said: Breaking the sexual harassment story that helped start a movement. They wrote about reviewing court settlements, confidentiality agreements, and memoranda; agonizing over their redaction in texts and emails to sources; and chasing, for three years, crumbs of information. The densely detailed narrative is fascinating but inherently uncinematic.

However, when it came time to adapt the material for the big screen, director Maria Schrader and screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz found the meticulousness of Kantor and Twohey’s process to be the point. Schrader knew the large amount of dialogue that would have to be included. “But I was never nervous about it,” the director told me. “The more I learn about all these steps… the more [realize that they were uncovering] a nightmare.” After all, Lenkiewicz told me, his relentless reporting revealed the sensitivity of the story, something that the best films depicting journalism should do as well. “It wasn’t just about journalism,” he said of Stand out, one of those movies that he admires. “It was about voices that are not being heard.”

She saidAs a result, it’s not a triumphant film about the rise of the #MeToo movement, but rather a measured and clear description of why that first article struck a nerve. Such a cool touch has made the film a hard sell to audiences, as reflected by last weekend’s paltry box office earnings. Even She said is a valuable entry into the journalistic-film genre. Kantor and Twohey’s thoroughness offered a model not only of journalism, but also of compassion. Schrader and Lenkiewicz approached their adaptation in the same way, tracking the emotional reality of the reporters’ experiences. The film shows how Jodi (played by Zoe Kazan) and Megan (Carey Mulligan) went from collaborating as colleagues to relying on each other for support, and how repeatedly hearing about trauma took a toll on both of them. She said he is less concerned with recreating Weinstein’s harassment and abuse than with showing the value of active listening. Take away all the headlines that have sprung up around #MeToo, the movie urges, and the movement becomes a study in care. As Lenkiewicz said: “Although there is so much darkness in the story… there is much beauty and light in the fact that women meet.”

To make that message clear, the film’s creators needed to do the right journalism. In one of the strongest scenes, Zelda Perkins (Samantha Morton), a former Miramax employee, meets with Jodi for an off the record conversation about why she left the company. But before telling her story, she explains the terms of the NDA that she signed. A lesser movie might have glossed over the finer points or tried to ratchet up the tension with a flashier performance. She said, however, let the scene run for almost 10 minutes. The details of the NDA are just as important as Zelda’s memories of workplace culture; they illustrate just how harshly Weinstein’s supporters acted in response to his accusations. Schrader said that she and Lenkiewicz made it a priority to accurately represent the way the sources discussed their experiences. They believed that these conversations deserved as much screen time as they did in the book, that if these journalists paid as much attention to context, the rest of us did too.

She said the book contains its share of shocking material. As an Oscar-winning mega-producer, Weinstein built an extensive network of powerful people, some of whom helped the Times‘ investigation and some of whom hindered it. Kantor and Twohey describe how they acquired a copy of a damning memo from a source who went into the bathroom while they were meeting at a bar and deliberately left her phone for Kantor to access. The authors also recall receiving panic messages from Gwyneth Paltrow when Weinstein showed up at her Hamptons home and they were attacked by agents of the Israeli intelligence firm Black Cube.

Any of these moments could have been sensationalized, and the film allows for some theatrical flourishes: a black SUV appears to trail behind Jodi as she leaves a restaurant, and Megan scolds a man who won’t leave her or his wife. colleagues alone in a bar. But such scenes are brief; Lenkiewicz told me that his intention was to underscore the pressure that came with the investigation. “There has been this wave of anti-journalism [sentiment] … You know, Can the news be trusted? Is the news valid?Lenkiewicz said. “I think it’s very important that people know that there are journalists who are unstoppable in their search for the truth.”

The film not only recreates the daily life of journalists; it also captures the solemn and matter-of-fact tone of the book. Lenkiewicz turned flurries of emails and text messages into extended, realistic conversations, illustrating how sources went from doubting to trusting reporters. Meanwhile, Schrader contrasted the cool, spare shots that accompanied the survivors’ voice-overs, such as that of an empty hotel hallway, with the clamor inside the room. Times offices In the newsroom, the constant chatter between editors and writers is marked by an obvious shared respect. Glimpses of Weinstein’s operation, however, are eerily quiet: set in inappropriate spaces, captured in montages of hastily rearranged hotel rooms, half-eaten meals, and abandoned purses. The presentation of these different work environments is subtle, but intensely effective.

The most important move the film makes is also the riskiest: She said delves into the home life of journalists, an element that does not appear in the book. The film shows Megan dealing with postpartum depression and Jodi’s shock when her eldest daughter first questions her about the word violation. These sequences broaden our vision of journalists beyond their occupation, cementing them as characters in themselves. That way, Schrader said, when they sit across from survivors and ask them questions, the public doesn’t just see an interview; they are understanding how the duo connected with the women they met. Kantor and Twohey’s subjects had to stay off the record, which meant they couldn’t be cited or attributed anything they shared. But they spoke anyway, because they had been waiting for the right person to listen. “It would be much more limited if we were just seeing two larger-than-life heroines going after the villain,” Schrader explained. Reality is much more complex”.

She said it doesn’t end with Weinstein’s arrest or the collapse of his company; ends with the publication of the exhibition. Rather than fast-forward to a clear epilogue, the film suggests that the #MeToo movement, at the time in 2017, faced an uncertain future. Five years after the events described, that is still the case. Yes, the reporting led to the producer’s conviction, as well as countless conversations about misogyny, abuse of power and the systems that protect perpetrators of sexual harassment, but other abusers have evaded punishment. Efforts to enact industry-wide solutions like Time’s Up have stalled, while questions linger about what accountability should look like, especially for Hollywood’s most influential figures. The film’s credits are a reminder of this fact: one of the executive producers, Brad Pitt, is facing allegations of abuse by his ex-wife, Angelina Jolie. (Pitt’s attorney issued a statement denying the allegations.) Schrader declined to comment on Pitt’s involvement, noting that Pitt never met him. But he explained that he intended the film “to not shy away from complexity and complicity and the question How involved are you already?

In other words, She said does not congratulate himself; it’s a reminder that empathy can take immense effort, and that even then, that effort might not lead to sure success. In one of the film’s most compelling scenes, Megan agrees to a meeting with Weinstein and his legal cabal; she needs to give you a chance to respond in order to publish the article. The Weinstein team is obviously irritated. As the camera zooms in on Megan’s face, the audio fades out. Mulligan turns into a subtle performance as she sits against this human wall of deflection and denial. She seems determined, then puzzled, then wary. A glimmer of resignation crosses her face, as she seems to realize that they care more about the welfare of the Weinstein Company than the welfare of the women who work there. There will always be people on the other side of the table, she raises the film. But those worth listening to are the ones who don’t have the power to claim a seat at all.

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