Here’s how open “Hollywood’s Worst-Kept Secret” was.
Earlier in my career working for newspapers in Tennessee, North Carolina and Florida, I’d hit several film festivals a year, including New York. I’d do junket weekends, chatting up the stars of this or that film — Miramax films included.
And among my friends in the film press, we’d openly joke about how Miramax, the studio run by Bob and Harvey Weinstein, seemed to recruit their publicists from the same finishing school. Beautiful little clones in matching little black dresses.
Dealing with them constantly, you couldn’t help but get to know a few as friendly, helpful individuals — focused, sharp and ambitious. But when you didn’t see one you knew at New York after having seen her at Toronto, you learned not to ask after her twice. The looks of alarm and avoidance, the few I would chat with if they turned up doing PR for another studio giving hints about “Not an easy place to work” and “a bad place for WOMEN to work” told me all I needed to know.
But nooooo. Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Rene, Gwyneth and Damon et al could NEVER have known right?
Others have done TV exposes of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the birth of #MeToo and #TimesUp. But “The Reckoning: Hollywood’s Worst-Kept Secret” is the first feature documentary about it, a wide-ranging film that focuses mostly on Weinstein, but also on the shock waves that washed over everyone from Aziz Ansari and Billy Bush to Cosby, Spacey, Toback and Donald Trump.
It’s damning in its depiction of a culture “willing to look the other way so long as he was making a lot of people a lot of money.”
Brave victims from Ashley Judd (“He abused his power.”) on down the acting community’s pecking order speak out. Starlet Starr Rinaldi was warned, “Don’t be alone with Harvey,” but there were always people who could make that happen.
Former employees detail the enabling that went on — assistants cajoling women into compromising situations, CAA and other talent agencies “pimping” starlets for The Harvey Treatment.
Here’s footage of Uma Thurman, spitting out the words, “When I’ve spoken, in anger, I usually regret the way I express myself. So I’ve been waiting for when I’m less angry. When I’m ready, I’ll say what I have to say.”
Journalists like Ken Auletta talk about the “monster” reputation Weinstein wore, which few took seriously due to the endless parade of awards season “I’d like to thank Harvey Weinstein” speeches.
Actresses like Katherine Kendall note the damage he could do to a woman’s career (Hers and Judd’s are good examples.). Others, like Dominique Huett, tearfully confess, “If I hadn’t been in a vulnerable career space…I needed a break.”
That gives filmmaker Barry Avrich, a Canadian director whose “Unauthorized: The Harvey Weinstein Project” (2011) tells you how long he and his team have been gathering expertise on their subject, his chance to widen the scope of “The Reckoning.”
Hollywood scandal monger Kenneth Anger gives the history of “The First Casting Couch.” “Keystone Cops” producer Mack Sennett had it. Emma Thompson recounts the business’s “history of harassment and bullying and interference,” what her mother in a more delicate age referred to as “pestering.”
“Reckoning” talks to lawyers, psychologists and others about the nature of this abuse and harassment. Its effect is always the same — traumatized and “shamed” women, some of them (in Weinstein and Bill O’Reilly’s cases) paid off. Many were not.
Tippi Hedren (“The Birds”) quotes what her harasser, Alfred Hitchcock, threatened her with. “He said ‘I’ll ruin your career.’ And he did.”
The film goes into graphic descriptions of Weinstein’s crimes, and those of Louis C.K. and James Toback. Cosby is merely shown, along with Casey Affleck, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, all tossed together in the same parade of harassers and worse.
Dylan Farrow recounts her dismay at how #MeToo blew up and yet here’s Kate Winslet, still working with Woody Allen. Here’s Diane Keaton defending “my friend.” Dylan is the Mia Farrow daughter who accused Allen of molesting her as a child.
Men were bullied, cursed and threatened and director George Hickenlooper recounts, in almost amusing detail, the profane threats Weinstein hurled at him over his direction and editing of “Factory Girl,” about Edie Sedgwick. Weinstein wanted “the sex scene” re-shot, and gave explicit instructions about what he wanted to see. Any doubts you have that lurid sex scenes and strip club moments in movies are sops to pervy producers vanish with this account.
Two stand-out take-aways from “The Reckoning” stick with me. Most of the Miramax and Weinstein Co. “enablers” get off without being named. But the role of the NDA, the “Non-Disclosure Agreement,” in fostering this climate of unending abuse, is exposed. As is its most avid advocate, “wronged woman” attorney Gloria Allred. It’s implied that she prolonged this crime spree by insisting her clients settle, take a payoff and keep quiet.
She was colluding in “silencing women,” putting their lives and careers “under a cloud of shame.”
And then there’s Dr. Wendy Walsh, a psychologist who regularly appeared on Fox News with Bill O’Reilly until she accused him of gross, threatening, persistent and unwelcome sexual come-ons. She’s a psychologist and proceeds, as a victim with FIRST HAND knowledge, to analyze why men “with some narcissistic injury” from their youth expose themselves to women. Shame triggers arousal in a Weinstein, O’Reilly or Louis C.K.
It’s the most damning interview moment in a movie that has plenty of dramatic moments — that infamous Howard Stern/Weinstein interview, the O.J.-like helicopter chase of Weinstein fleeing (by private jet and Escalade) to “sex addiction rehab” in Arizona.
Journalist Kim Masters, editor at large at The Hollywood Reporter, recalls Weinstein trying to manage the decades of rumors by baiting and confronting her in an interview, provoking her to blurt out “I’ve heard you rape women.”
Rose McGowan raises a fist and actress Melissa Sagemiller (“Get Over It”) details her variation of a story we’ve heard repeated — the proffered ride, private jet flight, “let me walk you to the subway” — scores of times, Weinstein’s piggishly predictable MO.
Leonard Cohen croons “Everybody Knows” on the soundtrack. And Meryl Streep defends herself against #MerylKnew charges.
No, it wasn’t up to any single individual (Bob Weinstein or later Michael Eisner, maybe) to expose and stop this. But how could she, them or any of us, not know?
MPAA Rating: unrated, sexual content criminal sexual behavior described
Cast:Ken Auletta, Jesse Berdinka, David Carr, Joan Collins, Alan Dershowitz, George Hickenlooper
Credits:Directed by Barry Avrich, script by Barry Avrich, Melissa Hood, Michèle Hozer. A Vertical release.
Running time: 1:18