‘She Said’ gets it right in showing the work that went into exposing Harvey Weinstein

Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan do finely calibrated work as the reporters determined to reveal the truth about the movie mogul’s sex crimes.

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Reporters Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan, left) and Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) consult with their editor (Patricia Clarkson) in “She Said.”

Universal Pictures

Like “All the President’s Men” (1976) and “Spotlight” (2015), Maria Schrader’s investigative journalism procedural “She Said” is a film that clearly understands the minutiae and mechanics of reporting and has great respect for the heroic truth-seekers who grind it out for weeks or even months in the name of shining a light on an earth-shattering scandal and bringing to justice those who deserve it.

From the quietly intense bustle of the New York Times newsroom to the editor/reporter conferences to the scenes of reporters working the phones and wearing out the shoe leather getting background information and trying to persuade sources to go on the record, “She Said” gets it right while telling the story of Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. They’re the Times reporters whose bombshell piece (along with Ronan Farrow’s work for the New Yorker) was largely responsible for the downfall of the despicable Harvey Weinstein, who has been sentenced to 23 years on sex crime convictions and is being tried on additional charges in Los Angeles.

While the pace is occasionally glacial and the screenplay indulges in any number of journalism-movie tropes, and “She Said” is not in the same league as those aforementioned classics, it is nonetheless a solid and straightforward telling, with Carey Mulligan (as Twohey) and Zoe Kazan (as Kantor) doing authentic and finely calibrated work. There’s nothing flashy or overwrought about these performances; we believe we’re watching two incredibly smart, overworked, sometimes overwhelmed and fiercely determined journalists who are going to get this story — and they’re going to get it right, down to the last pull quote, semicolon and kicker.

‘She Said’

Untitled

Universal Pictures presents a film directed by Maria Schrader and written by Rebecca Lenkiewicz. Rated R (for language and descriptions of sexual assault). Running time: 129 minutes. Now showing at local theaters.

After a disturbingly effective and deliberately vague prologue set in the early 1990s, the main story of “She Said” picks up in 2016, with Mulligan’s Twohey, who is pregnant with her first child, trying to convince Rachel Crooks (Emma O’Connor) to tell her story about Donald Trump allegedly assaulting her. Crooks goes on the record — but Trump wins the election, while it’s Crooks who is bombarded with harassment. (Shades of things to come.) “She Said” also briefly touches on the Times’ reportage of sexual misconduct by Bill O’Reilly of Fox News before Kantor and Twohey team up to dig into long-simmering rumors and blind-item stories alleging years of bullying, harassment and sexual assault by the powerful and famous Harvey Weinstein of Miramax fame.

Many of these stories involve famous, real-life actresses, and the film addresses the issue in a myriad of ways. Rose McGowan is heard only on the phone, with Kelly McQuail providing McGowan’s voice. A scene involving Twohey and Kantor paying a visit to Gwyneth Paltrow’s house is cut short before Paltrow joins them by the pool. Ashley Judd plays herself in a couple of pivotal and impactful scenes. (As for Weinstein, he’s heard as a voice on the phone, and glimpsed in profile and from behind in a pivotal scene. It’s a little bit distracting, but probably a better choice than having some lookalike actor portraying Weinstein. We don’t need to see the monster to be horrified by the damage he’s created.)

“She Said” is filled with scenes of cars going over bridges, exteriors of the New York Times building, sequences conducted in newsrooms and cafeterias and restaurants and on front stoops. There’s a deliberate pattern to the proceedings, as we alternate between scenes of former Weinstein employees such as Laura Madden (Jennifer Ehle) and Zelda Perkins (Samantha Morton) reluctantly telling their stories, and the rather heavy-handed but legitimate reminders that Twohey and Kantor are the mothers of daughters, and it’s a constant, sometimes exhausting struggle to find balance between life and work. (We know their husbands are supportive because they’re low-key guys who are usually clad in sweatpants, patiently cooking dinner or tending to the kids and ready with a glass of red wine while their wives perch over their laptops and take phone calls at all hours of the night.)

We get some hints at a thriller-type story, as the reporters are warned they’re most likely being watched by Weinstein’s army of security goons, and there’s one brief scene of the obligatory Ominous Black SUV roaring past Kantor on the street after she’s just interviewed a source. But that’s about as far as that stuff goes. Director Schrader favors a steady, no-frills approach — though we do get one enormously effective stylistic touch when there’s a repetitive series of shots of a long hotel corridor as we hear the real-life recording of Weinstein trying to bully and coerce Ambra Battilana Gutierrez.

Mulligan depicts Twohey as a badass, no-nonsense reporter, while Kazan’s Kantor is a bit more sensitive and vulnerable, but equally tough and determined to get the story. The invaluable Patricia Clarkson adds a stately and calming presence as Rebecca Corbett, the investigations editor overseeing the project, and Andre Braugher swipes every scene he’s in as executive editor Dean Baquet, a skilled manager who isn’t the least bit intimidated by Weinstein and his team of lawyers, and often puts them in their place by simply hanging up the phone. With a running time of two hours and nine minutes, “She Said” actually might have benefited from its own judicious editing, but it does justice to the story of the reporters who nailed down the story.

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