Cambridge Edition

Kazan, Mulligan shine in compelling drama


She Said (M, 129min) Directed by Maria Schrader ★★★ 1⁄ 2

Reviewed by James Croot

Aclever, compelling and character-filled combinatio­n of All the President’s Men, Zodiac and Sleepers, Spotlight was a deserved winner of the Oscar for Best Picture in 2016.

With a strong ensemble cast and an immersive shooting style, it was both a fantastic recreation of a small group of journalist­s’ determinat­ion to get to the truth and a paean to what then seemed like the dying art of in-depth investigat­ive journalism.

Set mainly in the latter part of the following year, if nothing else, Maria Schrader’s (I’m Your Man, Netflix’s Unorthodox) She Said provides a fascinatin­g look at the changing face, methodolog­y and practices involved in exposing wrongdoers.

Instead of the mainly grizzled, middle-aged men chain-smoking, chained to their desks in a basement of the ageing Boston Globe building at the turn of the century portrayed in Spotlight, we have two women in the bright, open-plan New York Times office, both trying to juggle their home life and work.

And, rather than trying to dig up documents, they’re constantly making calls in an attempt to find someone who will go on the record to back up the mountain of evidence they’ve uncovered.

But, as Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) and Jodi Kantor (Zoe

Kazan) find, that’s an almost impossible task.

Risks to their career, life and a weariness at having been ignored in the past, mean their efforts are mostly met with fear, resistance, or downright hostility.

Cleverly opening with the investigat­ions into allegation­s of thenpresid­ential candidate Donald Trump’s pattern of inappropri­ate behaviour towards women, She Said establishe­s the prevailing climate of public indifferen­ce and white male privilege as he sweeps into the White House and those who spoke out found themselves humiliated, ostracised and further abused.

So as Kantor, despite having already achieved some success in getting companies like Amazon, Starbucks and the Harvard Business School to change their culture, turns the attentions of her ongoing investigat­ions into sexual harassment in American workplaces towards Hollywood, it’s little wonder highprofil­e actors are unwilling to go ‘‘on the record’’ about their encounters with lecherous and abusive producers.

‘‘I’ve talked in the past and nothing happens,’’ Rose McGowan sighs. ‘‘It does damage to shout – and no one listens.’’

But as Kantor follows up on a growing number of leads, one name keeps on coming up – Harvey Weinstein. Multiple women recount horrifying, repeated incidents of bullying and emotional abuse dating back to the 1990s. Of business meetings that saw them faced with threats and sexual demands that left them feeling distraught and diminished.

Joined by Twohey, just back from maternity leave, the duo uncover evidence of payouts, non-disclosure agreements and previous investigat­ions being shut down by the powerful and seemingly untouchabl­e movie mogul.

And as they desperatel­y look for someone willing to break their silence, Twohey and Kantor find themselves the subject of intimidati­on by Weinstein and his associates, as well as potentiall­y facing the possibilit­y of being scooped.

Based on the pair’s 2017 investigat­ions and subsequent 2019 book, She Said benefits greatly from two terrific performanc­es from Kazan (The Plot Against America) and Mulligan (Promising Young Woman). They’re not ‘‘showy’’, Oscar-baiting turns, but the pair do a great job of portraying the emotional toll and mental strain their increasing­ly frustratin­g and seemingly fruitless efforts have on them.

It probably helps that in director Schrader and screenwrit­er Rebecca Lenkiewicz (Ida, Disobedien­ce, Colette) Kazan and Mulligan have two veteran actors who know how to get the best out of them.

Supporting the leading duo is a deep bench of talent, including Samantha Morton, Jennifer Ehle, Patricia Clarkson, Andre Braugher and Ashley Judd (playing herself). Real-life footage is kept to a minimum, audio recreation­s are used evocativel­y and effectivel­y and Weinstein himself is cleverly deployed only as a disembodie­d voice, or shot from behind.

While She Said perhaps doesn’t feel as powerful an emotional rollercoas­ter as it should, it now forms part of a compelling trilogy of films about Weinstein.

For documentar­y fans, there’s Ursula Macfarlane’s damning 2019 portrait Untouchabl­e. If you want something that’s truly immersive and emotionall­y involving then The Assistant is a nightmaris­h look at one young woman’s (brought to life by a brilliant Julia Garner) experience­s of power imbalance in the movie industry.

❚ She Said is now screening in cinemas nationwide.

 ?? ?? Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan deliver memorable performanc­es as Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor in She Said.
Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan deliver memorable performanc­es as Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor in She Said.

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