'The Reckoning: Hollywood's Worst Kept Secret': Film Review | Hot Docs 2018
Barry Avrich's documentary recounts the story of Harvey Weinstein's downfall and the rise of the #MeToo movement.
You can feel director Barry Avrich and his editors Michele Hozer and Darby MacInnis struggling to keep up with the fast-paced events featured in his documentary about Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo movement. The Reckoning: Hollywood's Worst Kept Secret is generally effective as a fast-paced primer on the sexual harassment scandals that have swept show business in the last year but doesn't really add much to the story that we don't already know. The film was a last-minute addition to Toronto's Hot Docs festival, where it received its world premiere.
Avrich is more than a little familiar with his subject, having previously directed the little-seen 2011 documentary Unauthorized: The Harvey Weinstein Project. That film failed to deal with the rumors regarding Weinstein's predatory behavior that were well known in the industry, but it was made when its subject was at the height of his power and no one was willing to go on the record.
As we all know, that situation has changed dramatically. This doc lays out the story in generally methodical, straightforward fashion, although Avrich doesn't resist the opportunity to invest musical irony into the proceedings with the use of such recordings as Nina Simone's "Sinnerman" and Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows." He also includes repeated close-ups of photos of Weinstein looking very unattractive, which is akin to shooting fish in a barrel.
Although there are no interviews with the familiar figures harassed by Weinstein such as Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan, we hear from several of his other victims including actress Melissa Sagemiller, describing his aggressive sexual advances during the shooting of the 2001 Miramax comedy Get Over It, and journalist Lauren Sivan, recounting the heavily reported story of how Weinstein, during a tour of the restaurant he owned, masturbated in front of her. Several of Weinstein's former employees weigh in as well, such as publicist Mark Urman, who describes the people who worked at Miramax as "walking ulcers," and Weinstein's former assistant Zelda Perkins, who comments, "With Harvey, there was no such word as no." Among the journalists providing astute commentary are Ken Auletta, the late David Carr and The Hollywood Reporter's own Kim Masters.
You would think the Weinstein story alone would provide plenty of material for a documentary, and a not particularly long one at that. So it's surprising that Avrich decided to also include cursory accounts of allegations involving the likes of Bill O'Reilly, Louis C.K., Aziz Ansari, James Toback and Donald Trump. The film even features a segment on Woody Allen's alleged sexual abuse of his daughter Dylan Farrow, which is arguably very different from the other stories discussed. You get the feeling it was included mainly because Avrich was able to procure a rare onscreen interview with Farrow herself.
The doc also includes a brief history of the Hollywood "casting couch"; a delve into the subject of non-disclosure agreements and their suppression of the truth; a profile of street artist Sabo, who blanketed Hollywood with anti-Meryl Streep posters; and the backlash to the #MeToo movement, including the letter signed by such French notables as Catherine Deneuve.
The film's attempt to be so overly all-encompassing ultimately proves its undoing. Never digging too deeply under the surface, The Reckoning: Hollywood's Worst Kept Secret will prove revelatory only to those viewers whose heads have been stuck in the sand for the past year.
Production company: Melbar Entertainment Group
Director: Barry Avrich
Producers: Barry Avrich, Melissa Hood
Executive producer: Patrice Theroux
Director of photography: Ken Ng
Editors: Michele Hozer, Darby MacInnis
Production designer: Paul Grundy
Venue: Hot Docs