REVIEW: ‘She Said’ solid but not spectacular #MeToo exposé

Despite losing some emotional heft, it remains a poignant film that’s well worth seeing.
Andre Braugher, Patricia Clarkson, Zoe Kazan, and Carey Mulligan in She Said (Universal Pictures)

“She Said” is an important and compelling film, dramatizing the efforts of two New York Times reporters to break the story of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual misconduct and abuse against a dozen or more women and expose his despicable and criminal lusts to the world.

Investigative reporters Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) and Jodi Kantor’s (Zoe Kazan) work was the catalyst for the #MeToo movement that inspired many woman who had suffered from inappropriate and often criminal behavior in the workplace to step forward and tell their stories after feeling compelled to keep quiet for the sake of their careers.

The movie is solid and in instances heartbreaking as the film depicts the story of the brave women who hoped to affect changes in attitudes and actions in the workplace by speaking about what had to be some of the most demoralizing incidents in their lives. Recapping those incidents are where the film, directed by Maria Schrader from a screenplay by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, really connects on an emotional level.

The drama makes you feel at least a portion of the victims’ pain, shame, anger, and release as they gain some measure of vindication by being heard by a world that all too easily pushed such stories into quiet corners for so long. If for only those scenes, the movie is a worthwhile endeavor on the part of its producers director, screenwriter, cast, and crew.

Near the end of the film, Schrader deftly uses a piece of actual audio of Weinstein browbeating a model in a New York hotel in a scene that is bone-chillingly raw. It was such a smart and perhaps even bold choice that makes the scene riveting. Just imagining a creep like Weinstein berating your partner, daughter, mother, sister, or friend in such a manner is enraging and heartbreaking.

Samantha Morton and Jennifer Ehle’s performances bring home the terror, pain, and shame of Weinstein’s victims with a vulnerability and fury that’s palpable.

However, the film loses some of its emotional heft as it dramatizes the ups and downs of the reporting of the story. While Mulligan and Kazan are strong in their roles, the depiction of the string-pulling, fact-finding, and sourcing of information necessary to cobble the story together plays more like a procedural TV series than a major motion picture.

New in Local Theaters – Nov. 18, 2022

The Menu (R) 1 hr. 47 min. (trailer)
(AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Sprindale, Malco Towne, Malco Pinnacle)
She Said (R) 2 hr. 9 min. (trailer)
(Malco Razorback, Malco Towne)
Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio (PG) 1 hr. 57 min. (trailer)
(Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle)

This story-gathering aspect of the film pales in comparison to movies like “Spotlight,” “All the President’s Men,” “Zodiac” and even the better episodes of the Ed Asner TV series “Lou Grant” from the late 1970s and early 1980s. The missing tension here might actually be more realistic, but it does skim some of the power off the top of the story being told. Patricia Clarkson and Andre Braugher play the reporters editor’s with a sincerity and gravity that is effective, but the film lacked the suspense and intensity we’ve grown to expect from the best of such investigation-centered movies.

Still “She Said” remains a poignant film that’s well worth seeing. Maybe, it’s not exactly what I’d consider Oscar-nomination worthy, but then again, this has been a fairly mediocre year at the movies so far.

(R) 2 hr. 9 min.
Grade: B

Classic Corner

Thanksgiving turkeys aren’t even out of the freezer yet for Thursday’s forthcoming feast, but Turner Classic Movies is already dusting off its collection of Christmas movies tonight (Nov. 18) to cap its day of Frozen Favorites.

All of today’s films on the channel are on the frosty side, featuring icy and snowy settings. TCM’s programmers avoided holiday fare until the evening when it rolls out three classic Christmas movies sure to warm the cockles of the coldest hearts, even if we’re a couple of weeks shy of December.

7 p.m. — Christmas in Connecticut

One of my favorite actresses from the Golden Age of Hollywood is Barbara Stanwyck. Her versatility and likability stood out during a four-decade career on the big screen and two more on television in a number of shows and mini series, including one of the better television Westerns of the 1960s “The Big Valley.”

Was it a rip off of “Bonanza?”

Yes, but “Big Valley” was still a good show that introduced many of us old timers to Lee Majors and Linda Evans. But I digress.

Stanwyck was a huge star, appearing in more than 85 films and earning four Academy Award nominations for best actress in “Stella Dallas” (1937), “Ball of Fire” (1941), “Double Indemnity” (1944), and “Sorry, Wrong Number “ (1948). She received an honorary Oscar for her lifetime contribution to film in 1982 and won a Golden Globe for her role in the 1983 mini series “The Thornbirds.”

I first began to appreciate Stanwyck’s work in a couple of Christmas comedies, “Christmas in Connecticut” (1945) co-starring Dennis Morgan and “Remember the Night” (1940) co-starring Fred MacMurray, who played opposite of her in “Double Indemnity,” perhaps both’s best film.

Both films are funny and romantic. They basically set the template for all the Hallmark, Lifetime, and GAF romantic comedies that run 24/7 during the holiday season.

“Christmas in Connecticut” is a riot and my favorite of the two. Stanwyck plays a columnist for “Smart Housekeeping” magazine during World War II, but she is a fraud. Instead of being an expert homemaker, she’s actually a single city girl, who has passed herself off as domestic goddess who tends to a husband, child, and farm in her column.

When her publisher (Sydney Greenstreet) proposes or rather demands that she entertain him and war hero (Dennis Morgan) at her farm for an old-fashioned Christmas, Stanwyck must rely on her wits and friends to bail her out of the impossible situation.

9 p.m. — The Bishop’s Wife

Christmas magic must have permeated the air in and around Hollywood in 1946-1947. It could be argued rather successfully that the three best Christmas-oriented films ever committed to film were produced during that span.

George Seaton’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” opened less than a year before Henry Koster’s “The Bishop’s Wife” did on Dec. 9, 1947, and George Seaton’s “Miracle on 34th Street” was sandwiched in the middle with an odd-for-the-subject-matter, May opening.

While “Miracle on 34th Street” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” are better known, “The Bishop’s Wife” may be the most charming and romantic of the three.

The incomparable Cary Grant stars as the angel Dudley who is tasked with the assignment of helping Bishop Henry Brougham, (David Niven) rediscover his zest for life by essentially making him jealous.

Dudley steps in to take Henry’s place in a number of festive activities with Henry’s wife Julia (Loretta Young) while the Bishop spends his time fundraising for a new cathedral.

Henry not only becomes jealous, but the angelic Dudley also begins to fall for Julia.

Ironically Grant was originally cast to play the Bishop, while Niven was set to play Dudley before producer Samuel Goldwyn stepped in to make the swap.

The fanciful romantic-comedy is filled with enchanting scenes, opening with Dudley walking the Christmas-clad streets of the city in a magical sequence that exudes all the warmth of the holiday season. Later Dudley and Julia share what has to be the most romantic ice-skating scenes ever filmed.

A discussion concerning ancient history with the atheistic Professor Wutheridge (Monty Woolley) is witty and clever as Dudley brings out the best of the professor by lending an understanding ear to the brilliant but lonely old man.

Like “It’s A Wonderful Life,” the film draws inspiration from the root of all modern Christmas stories, Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” reminding us to count our blessings and not to become too busy, lonely, or greedy to enjoy the life we are living.

11 p.m. — Meet Me in St. Louis

“Meet Me in St. Louis” is simply the type of movie Hollywood doesn’t make any longer. Modern audiences would stand for it.

It’s homespun melodrama simply isn’t tragic enough to thrill the dominant demographic profile of the modern movie-goer.

Whether a boy will ask a girl to the dance or even the tragedy of a family having to move from its beloved St. Louis to New York City the very same year the World’s Fair is scheduled to be held in its hometown is admittedly tame. It doesn’t quite measure up to the bombastic tentpole extravaganzas or hardened personal dramas that fill theaters today.

However if you are among those who love classic movies and enjoy all their maudlin sentimentality, like me, “Meet Me in St. Louis” is a wonderful trip back to the turn of the 20th century when everything was simpler, kinder, and more cozy.

The 1944 MGM musical is probably my second-favorite Judy Garland film behind “The Wizard of Oz,” and it features the debut of one of the all-time great Christmas tunes when Garland sings the melancholy “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” to the adorable child star Margaret O’Brien.

The film is a slice-of-life story, detailing the high points during a year in the life of the Smiths, an upper middle-class family whose children are looking forward to the 1904 World’s Fair being held in their hometown of St. Louis.

Much of the action centers around the courtship of Esther (Garland) by the boy next door John Truitt (Tom Drake), but the climax comes on Christmas Eve, when the youngest Smith, “Tootie” (O’Brien), has a breakdown because of the news that her father is being transferred to New York City, and the uncertainty that brings to the entire family.

Other songs featured in the film are “The Trolly Song” and “The Boy Next Door.” Each punctuate great scenes that showcase Garland at perhaps the apex of her career. The film is expertly directed by Vincente Minnelli, and Garland never looked better on film. No wonder the two fell and love with each other, and we’re married a year later.

Interestingly enough, “Meet Me in St. Louis” was the second-highest grossing film of 1944, coming in second to another musical set around Christmastime, “Going My Way,” starring Bing Crosby, another must-watch film.