This has been a strange year for prestige films. The holiday season used to be the prime time for Oscar-buzz films to have their big screen debuts after playing at film festivals in the Fall. This year, some of those films had cinematic releases only in major cities and then went direct to streaming platforms.
Will anyone discover the quirkiness of “White Noise” on Amazon Prime and appreciate the fun end credits dance scene? Did we need a big screen release of “Spirited”? Did “Armageddon Time” have a chance to find its audience even with that abrupt ending? Sadly, this crazy release philosophy has meant that films like “The Glass Onion”, the second film in the “Knives Out” series, is now streaming on Netflix. Comedy plays better in a big room where an audience’s laughter can be infectious. Is it as funny if no one else is laughing? And a murder mystery with great production design is better appreciated on a big screen. Whereas other films like “Spoiler Alert”, the nuanced drama about a gay couple facing tragedy with grace, seemed stranded at the cineplex. Yes, it was a film worthy of a big screen release. Was it a good film for the holidays? It was a blink-and-it’s-gone premiere.
“She Said”, a dramatization of the real events, is another film that’s not been given enough promotion or received enough big screen love. Opening on Friday at The Nugget, “She Said” gives us the perspective of the New York Times investigative reporters who broke the Harvey Weinstein story that began the #MeToo movement. A brilliant adaptation of She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement, written by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey.
Zoe Kazan portrays Jodi Kantor and Carey Mulligan plays Megan Twohey in a film that’s in turns gripping, suspenseful and eye-opening. Director Maria Schrader (“I’m Your Man”, “Unorthodox” miniseries), invites us into these women’s lives. This isn’t a procedural film or a court-room drama; we witness the everyday lives of two working women. They may be reporting on harassment in Hollywood, but it’s clear they’ve experienced their own challenges in the newsroom and their lives.
One woman is suffering post-partum depression, something rarely discussed and almost never seen on the big screen. There are domestic scenes of lunch-packing and kisses from spouses as they leave for work. Discussions take place late at night in bed and confidences are shared over the phone while nursing a baby. These gals were overcoming their own challenges. They brought their own pain and insecurities to the table to convince other women to share their traumas. The reporters traveled to women’s homes and even overseas, to speak one-on-one with victims to establish a rapport and trust. It’s clear that by putting in the long hours and sharing their own stories, Kaplan and Twohey were able to gain the trust they needed to bring these stories to light.
Reminding you of other quality newsroom dramas like “The Post” (2017) or “Spotlight” (2015), “She Said” is a more feminist tale. The emphasis is on the women who’ve suffered and been denied justice and the narrative drive stems from whether anyone will speak “on the record”. It’s one thing to collect horror stories of careers sidelined or ruined, and quite another to publish a fact-based piece that will lead to real change.
The women give bracingly real performances with great support from Patricia Clarkson as their editor and Samantha Morton as a victim willing to fight. Ashley Judd bravely plays herself and though she’s not on camera, Gwyneth Paltrow allows her story to be told. Even if you know the outcome of this story, watching it unfold drives home how fraught the whole process was. There was a lot on the line. Watching the staff gathered around the computer to do a final read-through, then that final mouse click on PUBLISH and the newsprint rolls off the press. The truth is revealed, and it makes you want to cheer. As the film ends, the roll call of all the women who came forward with accusations fill the screen. It’s both astounding and horrifying.
Drinks with Films rating: 4 cups of coffee, extra caffeine needed to get the job done (out of 5)