Greetings again from the darkness. The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements are in full force, and if you somehow missed “what happened”, director Barry Avrich’s film will fill you in and get you caught up. As an expose’, it’s a bit late to the party, but as a look at how we got here, it’s pretty much right on the nose. The film opens with a proverbial cold slap to the face of viewers. We hear the Howard Stern interview where movie mogul Harvey Weinstein denies any type of sexual malfeasance exists in Hollywood. Weinstein, of course, is the poster boy for sexual misconduct in the movie industry. He’s a man who has kept the “casting couch” alive for three decades; although as we’ve learned, it certainly wasn’t Weinstein acting alone (unfortunately).
Much of the film is focused on Weinstein, and justifiably so. He is described as talented AND a monster – also as cunning, witty, brilliant, and devastating. This man was such a megalomaniac that he structured his business around two things: making money on independent films and using his position of power and influence to put women in compromising and unsafe situations. He went so far as to utilize “honey pots” – female assistants who could gain the trust of the actresses and help lure them to his web of sleaze. One of these former assistants, Zelda Perkins, is interviewed and sheds light on the process.
Many others are interviewed for the film. Writers, reporters, agents, lawyers, a psychologist, and actresses all tell their stories and insight. Weinstein is not the only name that’s named. The film also touches on: Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly, Woody Allen, Louis CK, Aziz Ansari, Olympic Doctor Nassar … and even Pepe Le Pew (from Looney Tunes). A segment is dedicated to the audacity and despicable actions of director James Toback (known as the dream killer), and Tippi Hedren and Joan Collins talk about “that’s the way it’s always been”. We learn Mack Sennett is credited as being the founding father of the casting couch (in the early 1900’s), though numerous studio heads, producers and directors have since preyed on the ambitions of wannabe starlets.
In an awkward segment, acting legend Meryl Streep admits “I’m taking some hits” after having been targeted by street artist Sabo with #SheKnew posters. If nothing else, this underscores just how difficult it has been for women to speak up … at least until now. Dozens and dozens of women have come forward with their stories, leaving us hopeful that this blight on the industry might be over for good. Leonard Cohen’s biting song “Everybody Knows” is put to good use here.
When one of his victims recalls the story where he gifted her a copy of Fitzgeralds’ “The Last Tycoon”, and Weinstein bluntly stated, “that’s me”, we begin to understand that this monster was not just about control … he was out of control. He lost his barometer on right and wrong, and it became about what he was entitled to in his position at the top of the movie making world. Thanks to some courageous women, he no longer has that power position, and with forums like this film from director Avrich, it’s likely no other predator in this industry will ever again be able to abuse the power to the extent we’ve seen from Harvey Weinstein.
On Demand Nov. 6th.