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Dan Webster reviews "She Said"

It’s no secret that newspapers around the world are struggling. According to the New York Times, some 2,500 U.S. newspapers have closed since 2005. And many if not most of those that still print the news, even those with online editions, have made huge cuts in both staff and circulation.

So there’s irony in the fact that a movie just opened that is one of the best cinematic studies of print journalism to be released in recent years. Certainly since “Spotlight,” which won a 2016 Best Picture Oscar. The movie’s title is “She Said,” and it tackles one of today’s major issues – that of sexual abuse. … specifically of sexual abuse experienced by those working in the film industry.

Directed by Maria Schrader, “She Said” was written by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, who based her screenplay on both the reporting of New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey and on the book the two wrote titled “She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement.”

In the film, Kantor is played by Zoe Kazan (the granddaughter of famed film and theater director Elia Kazan) while Twohey is played by Carey Mulligan. And aside from the importance of the topic the film addresses, what makes it unique is the fact that it delves into the lives of these two women reporters.

Kantor, for example, is the mother of two who juggles her career and her marriage while trying to maintain the semblance of a normal family life. Twohey also is a mother, and for a time she is portrayed as enduring postpartum depression. Both, it’s good to know, have supportive spouses.

Yet like other journalists before them – the team of Woodward and Bernstein of “All the President’s Men” comes to mind – once Kantor and Twohey get on the trail of their story, they are as committed as any journalist could be – taking phone calls in the middle of the night, showing up unannounced to try to wrangle interviews, braving an industry that they gradually discover is far more menacing than just one man.

That man, of course, is former Miramax head Harvey Weinstein. Because of the reporting that Kantor and Twohey did – as well as the stories Ronan Farrow wrote in The New Yorker – dozens of women came forward to share their stories of being sexually abused by Weinstein. Convicted in New York, he was sentenced to 23 years in prison (though that conviction is being appealed). Weinstein is being tried right now in Los Angeles for similar offenses he is charged with committing in that city – including the alleged rape of Jennifer Siebel Newsom, wife of California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Schrader’s film documents all this, much of it cast with the kind of authenticity and judiciousness that television shows and more exploitative movies spurn. Yes, Kantor and Twohey are warned by their editor Dean Baquet (played by Andre Braugher) that they are probably being taped and followed – and Schrader includes a scene in which Kantor is shadowed along the street at night by a black SUV. But that’s the extent of the drama.

The rest of the film documents the slow progress of their investigation, of their trying to convince women to testify despite many of them having received settlements that required the signing of non-disclosure agreements.

These victimized women are featured as well. The movie, in fact, opens with scenes involving a young Irish woman excited to be part of a film production. Then, suddenly, she is shown running down the street, half-dressed and in tears. Years later, the adult version of that same woman (played by Jennifer Ehle) decides to let her name be used in the Times’ story.

Besides, Kazan and Mulligan – both of whom are superb – along with Braugher and Ehle, other notable performances include Patricia Clarkson as Times editor Rebecca Corbett and Samantha Morton as a former Miramax employee. Ashley Judd, too, makes an appearance, playing herself.

Like Richard Nixon in “All the President’s Men,” Weinstein is mostly a shadowy figure in “She Said.” He is portrayed briefly, though never clearly, by the actor Mike Houston, who also impersonates him in a phone conversation.

But his presence lurks over the film, much as his real self did over the business that has brought so many of us so much joy. That, too, is irony,

For Spokane Public Radio, I’m Dan Webster.

Besides being a film critic for Spokane Public Radio, “Movies 101” host Dan Webster writes the Movies & More blog for