Gangster. Mafia. Monster. These are the words that come up as former colleagues, journalists and alleged victims attempt to describe the brutal power once wielded by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. “D’you really wanna make me your enemy for five minutes of your time?” he demanded of Hope d’Amore, a college student who was seeking work at Miramax and found they’d been “accidentally” booked into the same hotel room. “And then, you know, he’s huge,” points out d’Amore, who only weighed around 110lbs at the time she says Weinstein forced himself on her. She fled home, her dreams of working in the entertainment business wrecked. “He used to say he owned the cops in Buffalo,” she goes on. “Nobody would have believed anything I said.”
Ursula Macfarlane’s sombre film is largely composed of lengthy interviews, many of them gruelling, interspersed with archive stills and a bare minimum of film clips. We don’t need to consider the value of the work Miramax produced in its heyday right now. Photographs show the various stages of the “fat kid from Queens” as he metamorphosed into the dynamic producer of the Eighties and Nineties, to the epitome of bloated menace and finally to a figure of abject disgrace. If you felt a twinge of sympathy for him in his downfall, here’s the antidote.
D’Amore’s account of her assault, which allegedly took place in 1978, indicates that his modus operandi was honed early. She met him in Buffalo, New York, where Weinstein, an alumnus of the university, was a concert promoter in the 1970s, along with brother Bob. Deborah Slater, Weinstein’s former secretary, without irony, outlines Harvey’s main business principle: “Never take no for an answer”. His assistant at Miramax, Kathy Declesis, who opened his mail, including legal letters outlining allegations of sexual misconduct, couldn’t take it, telling Bob: “I quit, and your brother is a fucking pig.”
The interviews give the alleged victims time to tell their stories, with long takes and pauses to allow them to frame difficult sentences. The most haunting interviewee is actress Paz de la Huerta, with her thousand-yard stare. The sneaky trick of using footage before the start of the interview proper underlines her dazed fragility. At one point, intercutting shows the similarity of the women’s ordeals. They could almost be the same person as they describe his brutal approaches
With a deep sigh, one Miramax exec confesses, “I feel so conflicted about my experience with Harvey,” because on a professional level it was so rewarding. “We all feel survivor guilt,” he says, for experiencing only positives, when others got the negative.
When Disney, who’d bought Miramax in 1993, finally parted company with the brothers in March 2005 it was the beginning of the end. The deluge of allegations, bolstered by sterling work from investigative journalists, spawned the #MeToo movement and a profound change in attitudes. But as one interviewee warns: “There is a Harvey Weinstein in every industry.”
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