She Said is a pretty straightforward "based-on-a-true-story" journalism movie. Two intrepid reporters dig into a story that others seem to have ignored. The deeper they go, the more disturbing the revelations. The object of their investigations becomes increasing villainous, and the reporters start to fear for their own safety. But they never give up, backed by the power of a mega news corporation, The New York Times.
That you might have seen this before (All the President's Men is the obvious comparison) ends up being irrelevant. Part of that is the very ordinary structure of the movie. As Neil Minow wrote, "It is in no way a criticism to say that this is a solid, conventional film, skillfully made." She Said walks us through the investigation, becoming almost too painstaking at times in its desire to get the story right, without a lot of stylistic moves to distract us from that story.
Yet there is something very different in She Said than in the easy genre identifications of something like All the President's Men, and it's a difference so plain to see that you might miss it at first. The reporters who wrote the story (and later the book), Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, are women. The screenwriter, Rebecca Lenkiewicz, is a woman. The director, Maria Schrader, is a woman. The cinematographer, Natasha Braier, is a woman. And all of these women, along with everyone involved in the making of the movie, is committed to the story that played a big part in the understanding of the MeToo movement across the larger population. The presence of these artists is crucial, and their ability to present the story without sensationalizing events is a plus ... as Minow said, this is not a criticism.
Thus, some time is spent on the home lives of Kantor and Twohey. It's hard to balance a job and a family, especially for wives/mothers. They both have supportive families, and there is never a sense that they are asked to choose between work and home. But while Woodward and Bernstein were able to break the Watergate story partly because they had the time and energy to take it on, here it's part of the story that the protagonists struggle to find that time. Yet the point isn't beaten over our heads ... it's just there.
Kantor and Twohey rely a lot on their editor, Rebecca Corbett. Yes, Andre Braugher is there as Dean Baquet, executive editor of The Times, and Braugher is at his usual best, but it's Corbett and her writers at the center of the journalism, and again, the point is there, it isn't necessary to beat us over the head.
And women are the core to the story. Yes, the writers are examining the misogynistic power of industries and Harvey Weinstein in particular, but She Said never moves too far away from showing us the women who suffered under this system. In all of these ways, She Said is properly different from many other journalism movies.
The film isn't perfect. The New York Times isn't perfect, and She Said mostly slides past the ways The Times itself was complicit in covering up for Weinstein for many years. But the story we do get is still powerful.
I knew nothing about director Maria Schrader going in. She's from Germany, and has far more credits as an actor than as a director. Her work here is impressive. And I can't say enough about the cast (casting director Francine Maisler). Patricia Clarkson as Corbett, Jennifer Ehle and Samantha Morton as women abused by Weinstein, Ashley Judd playing herself, and Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan as Twohey and Cantor are the names, but the casting is on target throughout. Mulligan and Kazan, in particular, have an easy rapport ... it's no surprise that the two are great friends in real life.