Published Apr 30, 2018Canadian documentarian Barry Avrich has history with Harvey Weinstein. In 2011, he made Unauthorized: The Harvey Weinstein Project, a profile of the upstart producer that painted him as a man with some character flaws, but was undeniably a genius in his field. There was no mention of the sexual assaults we know now were going on behind closed doors. Regardless, Weinstein tried to shut the film down. Avrich understandably wanted another chance at Weinstein after news of his sexual assault scandal broke, and one can't help but wonder if Avrich perhaps also didn't want to atone in some way for what he missed the first time around.
In the ever-changing wake of the Me Too movement, where new accusations and prevailing opinions about what to do about them are surfacing regularly, Avrich's documentary The Reckoning: Hollywood's Worst Kept Secret doesn't exactly break any new ground. But as an overview of Hollywood's history of sexually abusing women, the documentary does serve to contextualize recent events and offers a balanced perspective on the challenges facing the movement going forward.
Kicking off in the days following Weinstein's exile from Hollywood, the documentary's opening passages detail the allegations that brought him and his company down. An interview with actress Melissa Sagemiller, who recalls how Weinstein's frequent set visits on the teen film Get Over It eventually led to her being propositioned by Weinstein behind closed doors, underscores the emotional impact of his transgressions. There's an interesting section that delves into the history of the casting couch and illustrates how this sort of thing has been around a lot longer than you might think.
From there, the documentary segues into the many other public figures that have been accused of some sort of misdeed in recent days. This means, for instance, hearing all about the many years director James Toback (who even made a movie starring Robert Downey Jr. called The Pick-Up Artist) spent preying on women, luring them in with promises of a starring role in one of his films only to then be faced with the unfortunate reality of having their leg humped by him. We also get time on the scandals involving Louis C.K., Aziz Ansari and Trump.
While some of the documentary's clips — including TMZ-style snippets of a disheveled Weinstein and various actors on talk shows discussing the movement — can come across at times as nothing more than a well-curated Youtube playlist on the subject, at least the interviews provide some insights. If you're going to discuss the Woody Allen allegations, it obviously helps to have his accuser Dylan Farrow on camera, just as it's necessary to hear from all of the other victims interviewed here, though the opinions of someone like columnist Margaret Wente can already be found elsewhere or, better yet, not at all.
In fact, the stories and surrounding discussion have become so prevalent in our culture that it's worth wondering if any of this will really be all that new or noteworthy to a world that is already immersed in the subject. Of course, if it makes Avrich feel better that he's finally able to unveil the awful truth about his proverbial white whale, then at least he's achieved something. If only he could have known years ago. It would have made for a far more incendiary and important documentary than it does now. (Melbar)