In October of 2017, The New York Times and The New Yorker published stories reporting that nearly a dozen women had accused film producer Harvey Weinstein of rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse.
Eighty-two more women would come forward in the following month, igniting the #MeToo movement. And eventually, Weinstein would be sentenced to 23 years in prison for his crimes.
But this story isn’t about Weinstein.
Rather, it follows the lives of Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, the two New York Times journalists who broke the story.
We witness the fear, manipulation, threats, heartache and depression they faced as they dug deeper and deeper for the truth. We watch their struggle as they search for a woman willing to go on record against the Hollywood mogul. We feel the sadness, hatred, exhaustion, terror, dread and trauma of the victims.
And at the end, we’re given, if not a happy ending, then at least a sense of satisfaction as justice is served.
She Said deals with many difficult themes surrounding the topic of sexual abuse and assault. However, one positive element that stands out above everything else is how we see compassionate advocates coming alongside Weinstein’s victims. Megan, Jodi and other champions for these terrified victims stand by them. They believe them. They seek to give them a voice and a platform to be heard on.
In the end, it makes a difference. Several women agree to go on record to corroborate the stories of those who are legally unable to do so. And, as stated in the introduction, Weinstein is eventually convicted.
Megan and Jodi support each other throughout the film. After Megan gives birth to her first daughter, Jodi helps her navigate the complicated emotions of postpartum depression. And when Jodi starts to feel that all their work is for nothing, Megan encourages her to persevere.
The reporters are backed up by their team at The Times. When Weinstein’s team tries to manipulate and bully them, their bosses intervene to silence him and ensure the story gets published. Some people anonymously tip off Megan and Jodi to get them the sources they need.
Jodi’s family is Jewish, and we see them participate in a Jewish ceremony at home. Muslim refugees sleep on the floor of a shelter. Two women mention their Christian faith.
A man jokes that he is having an affair to try to get his wife’s attention. We see several couples sleeping in their beds together. (Sometimes these couples are scantily clad.) People dance and make out at a club. A woman’s pregnant belly is exposed during an ultrasound. A clip from Ashley Judd’s “Nasty Woman” speech at the 2017 Women’s March talks about “homophobia” and “transphobia.”
She Said’s narrative and themes focus on rape, sexual abuse and assault. And the film tactfully avoids recreating or reenacting any of these attacks.
However, we do briefly glimpse crime scenes in still scenes and sound bites: a woman’s clothing on the floor of a hotel room, a shower running in the background, half-empty champagne glasses on a coffee table. Women tell their stories. In sometimes gritty detail, we learn exactly what was done to them, how it was covered up and how they were silenced after the fact.
In one instance, we hear that a victim reported Weinstein to the police and agreed to visit him again while wearing a wire. The resulting recorded audio lets us know that Weinstein was dismissive and manipulative, coercing the woman into acts she repeatedly said she didn’t want to do.
We also sometimes see victims immediately after their assault, sobbing and unable to explain what just happened to them.
Although the film focuses on Weinstein’s victims, we hear sexual assault allegations against other prominent public figures, too.
Over the phone, a man threatens to rape and murder a woman. When Megan turns down a man’s advances, he sexually threatens her, and she screams at him. Jodi is devastated when she learns that her young daughter knows what rape is and has heard many classmates use the term.
We hear that a woman tried to take her own life after being assaulted, but she failed. (A flashback shows her lying on a bed with a spilled bottle of pills and empty bottle of booze.)
A woman learns she has cancer and needs a mastectomy. (She and her daughters cry about it later on.)
We hear about 20 uses of the f-word and six of the s-word, as well as a couple uses each of “b–ch” and “d–n.” God’s name is also abused four times.
People drink and smoke throughout. We see an inebriated man at a bar. A woman says she wished she smoked.
The system of fear and intimidation that Harvey Weinstein created becomes increasingly clear with every woman whom Megan and Jodi interview. These women have been worried that people wouldn’t believe them, that they’d be labeled “liars” and “flirts.”
Some women were wrongfully shamed into believing their assault was somehow their fault. Weinstein black-balled the careers of certain actresses who spoke out against him, discouraging others from reporting the abuse they faced. And it scared many from coming forward without some form of safety net to protect them from legal or professional recrimination. Some women were prevented from going public because of nondisclosure agreements they were pressured into signing. (We also hear that financial settlements prevented some women from seeking therapy afterwards.)
During their research, Megan and Jodi discover a long list of enablers of sexual harassment. These people lied, paid financial settlements, bullied, threatened, manipulated, defended the perpetrators, or turned a blind eye in an attempt to hide the truth. And while some of these people feared for their own future careers, it also allowed the abuse to go unchallenged for decades.
One of Weinstein’s accountants is shocked when confronted with one of the settlement documents. He says he thought the settlements were to cover up extramarital affairs. And he provides incriminating documents to offset his involvement in the payoffs.
The reporters are told by many people that Weinstein will likely have them followed once he learns they’re investigating him. (Weinstein obsesses over actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s involvement after one of the journalists speaks with her off the record.)
Megan and Jodi sometimes get pushy while searching for the truth. They show up on more than one victim’s doorstep, begging for someone to go on record. And while their cause is noble, this could be seen as intrusive as well.
We learn about many laws and policies that protect perpetrators more than victims. We hear that Weinstein’s favorite way to deny allegations was to swear on the lives of his wife and children.
Political affiliations sometimes come into play, with Megan and Jodi primarily appearing on more liberal news stations. We also hear disparaging remarks about an American president.
A woman is sent a bag of human feces after reporting harassment in the workplace.
For decades, Harvey Weinstein got away with rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse because of his power. He could pay people off, intimidate them or even threaten them. His team of lawyers pressured women into accepting settlements and signing non-disclosure agreements. His defenders tried to play down his actions—suggesting that it was all in these women’s heads, or that they wanted his attentions, or even that Weinstein only paid them off because it was simpler than going to court to defend himself.
His victims, even those who had risen in fame, wealth and power since their attacks, felt powerless. They couldn’t tell their friends or family what had happened. They couldn’t report it to the police or even seek therapy. They felt ashamed for accepting “dirty” money. And although they knew they weren’t the only ones, being unable to talk about it made them feel isolated.
Megan and Jodi realize that these women would only come forward if they no longer feel alone—if they could somehow all “jump together.”
It takes time, as well as the support and sympathy of the two journalists, to convince the first brave woman to take that risk alone. But it sends a powerful message: It only takes one person to make a difference.
Several women agreed to be quoted in The New York Times’ article, and soon after its publication, dozens of others followed. The perpetrator was sent to prison.
And while that’s only one abuser out of who knows how many, the message remains. It only takes one brave soul willing to tell the truth to make a difference.
She Said is a powerful film, but one that families should approach with extreme caution. In addition to its sensitive and difficult depiction of sexual assault and abuse, foul language is prominent in this film as well, with 20 uses of the f-word alone. We also hear about a suicide attempt following one woman’s assault. And these heavy topics may not be suitable for all audiences—even in the context of a film with an important story to tell.
Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and geeking out with her husband indulging in their “nerdoms,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything they love, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate and Lord of the Rings.