NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Niki
In the 90s, a young, happy female production assistant watches a scene on a movie set during the revolutionary war being filmed on a beach. Cut to this same girl running down a city street, crying uncontrollably.
In 2016, New York Times journalist Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) speaks with a young woman – Rachel – about speaking out against Donald Trump, who is running for president. The woman is hesitant and wants to know if the Times would cover her legal costs if she needs them after coming forward. Megan says they can’t help with legal fees. The woman would be on her own but feels comfortable if another woman is on board as well. Then she agrees to go on record.
New York Times Journalist Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) juggles her two young daughters while getting ready for work. It’s not easy.
A pregnant Megan is sick in bed as her husband takes care of her while Jodi’s husband leads them in a Jewish holiday prayer for their family. Megan receives a call from Trump. He denies the girls’ accounts.
A news story runs the next day- several women speaking out against Trump. It’s everywhere. Megan’s source, Rachel, is trapped inside her house. Cameramen are camped outside her house. Megan suggests writing things down and taping any conversations. An exhausted Megan gets a call from a woman calling for Bill O’Reilly. She wants to know if Megan thinks of herself as a feminist. Megan lets out a big sigh.
Then Megan gets a threatening call from a man saying he will kill her and dump her body in the river. News anchors announce Trump wins the presidency as Fox News dismisses Bill O’Reilly. Jodi works with another reporter on women’s claims of inappropriate nature. Her editor, Rebecca Corbett (Patricia Clarkson), commends her work.
Jodi and Rebecca start a new topic – corporate misuse of power or workplaces where harassment might happen. Jodi speaks to the head of a feminist group who says the wrongdoing in Hollywood is overwhelming. Rose McGown tweeted about being raped by a producer, who the feminist head says is Harvey Weinstein.
Weinstein was accused by another Italian model who claimed Weinstein groped her in a business meeting. NYPD investigated it, but he was never charged. Jodi must track down and talk to Rose and other actresses he’s worked with and ex-employees but gets nowhere.
Megan and her husband are able to hear the heartbeat of their unborn child while Jodi continues to track down people who worked with or for Weinstein. Finally, Jodi gets a call from Rose, but she’s not inclined to talk to the Times because of the way she’s been treated by the paper in the past. Rose isn’t willing to put herself on the line again because she’s spoken up in the past and nothing ever changed. Jodi tells her she has written about Amazon, Starbucks, and Harvard Business School, and change happened as a result of her articles. Jodi’s husband tries to talk about serious topics, but Jodi is really wrapped up in the workplace/ Weinstein research.
She watches a clip of Ashley Judd at a rally. She reads an article Ashley wrote about being harassed in the 90s. Megan struggles with Postpartum depression, and her husband talks her through it.
Rose McGown calls Jodi back and suggests Jodi expands beyond Weinstein. Hollywood is full of abusers, calling it “white men on a playground.” Rose then tells her at a meeting, Weinstein talked projects with her and then mentioned he has a jacuzzi in his room. She didn’t know how to respond, so she just kept talking. Later, they were walking down the hallway, and he mentioned, “this is the jacuzzi room” she didn’t know what to say, but once he pushed her inside, he stripped her clothes off, and she had an out-of-body experience as he raped her. She went into survival mode to get out. He left messages saying she was his special friend.
She didn’t report it because she didn’t think the police would take her side. She told people, but no one did a thing. Jodi wants to contact the people Rose told, but Rose warns Weinstein will have spies watching Jodi now.
Jodi calls Megan at home. They discuss motherhood, and Jodi can tell Megan is struggling. Then they discuss how the women are finding it hard to talk to Jodi and go on the record. Jodi asks Megan how she got women to speak in the past, and Megan says though it’s hard, and she can’t change what happened to you in the past, but together we may be able to use what happened to you to help other people.
Jodi talks to Ashley Judd over zoom. Ashley goes over how Weinstein harassed her. What was supposed to be a business meeting turned into Weinstein asking for a massage, then asking her to pick out his suit, getting closer and closer. Ashley could only say no so many different times in so many different ways. She got out of there fast. She told her dad, agent, and people she was filming with that day. Then she was stonewalled by others. Today she knows it was Weinstein making a phone call to have people ice her out of roles she was up for.
Jodi receives an email from Lisa Bloom, daughter of feminist icon Gloria Allred. Turns out Weinstein and Jay-Z are producing a series based on Lisa’s book. Jodi’s colleague points out Weinstein must have had Lisa reach out to Jodi, which means Weinstein knows that Jodi’s looking into his past.
At work, Megan and Jodi discuss expanding the story to people who don’t have a platform, unlike actresses. Megan suggests she can search for police complaints and court records against Miramax, Weinstein’s producing company. Jodi and Megan team up to continue the story.
Jodi and Megan have lunch, and Jodi says Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner want to help but then
Megan gets a call from the investigator on the sexual harassment cases, but he doesn’t know what Miramax is.
Megan is able to track down an old assistant who disappeared from Miramax. Megan shows up at the woman’s mother’s house, but the woman is actually there. The woman immediately changes her demeanor. She starts to breathe fast and chooses her words wisely. “All I can say is that I had a business dispute that was resolved amicably, and we’ve agreed not to discuss it.” Megan says in the past, they’ve written around NDAs, and sources can remain anonymous regardless of settlements. But the woman doesn’t want to be involved.
Jodi gets a call from Gwyneth Paltrow while Megan approaches the (former?) CFO of Miramax at his house. With his wife in the room, he has trouble dismissing Megan.
Megan calls the equal employment opportunities commission to confirm which companies have the most sexual harassment complaints, but they can’t help because it’s confidential.
Jodi meets Gwyneth at her house. We don’t see Gwyneth but Jodi reports back to work that it’s a pattern of behavior. Weinstein invited Gwyneth to the hotel under the guise of a “business meeting” and then threatened her with losing her job if she refused Weinstein.
NDAs are rarely examined, barely come up in open court, and law schools don’t teach them. Also, attorneys who represent the victims can get up to 40% of the settlement. Most sexual harassment cases are settled. The women must give over all diaries, emails, and recordings. It’s cash for silence.
Then Rebecca asks how close the women are to going on the record. The horrific hotel accounts without corroborating evidence won’t help the story. The Times executive editor Dean (Andre Braugher) wants any comment from Weinstein to be on the record and tells Jodi and Megan to assume any conversation with him is being recorded.
Next, we hear the Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierez’s recording of the night Harvey Weinstein tried to coerce her into his hotel room.
Megan calls a source who used to work at the D.A.’s office. She brings up that Weinstein wasn’t charged on a certain case, and it was irregularly handled. The DA source says there wasn’t any criminal conduct there. Megan pushed because there was a recording.
Jodi gets a call from a panicked Gwyneth Paltrow. Weinstein has turned up to her house party. Gwyneth has locked herself in her own bathroom to avoid him. Jodi asks if Gwyneth feels she’s in danger, but Gwyneth feels that Weinstein is sending a message that he’s letting her know he knows.
Jodi and Megan go to lunch with Rebecca. There they learn that Ronin Farrow is also working on a story about Weinstein. There, a man approaches them, trying to pick up one of the ladies. Megan tries to be polite, but the guy won’t take no for an answer. Then Megan yells at him to go away, and that catches everyone in the restaurant’s attention. She apologizes, but Jodi says no apology is necessary.
Jodi meets an ex-Miramax assistant at an upscale restaurant. She becomes emotional and gives the names of two assistants and a third woman Jodi should talk to. Rowena Chung, Zelda Perkins, and Laura Madden. But they all live in London, Silicon Valley, and Wales. Rebecca tells Jodi they absolutely need documents and verification.
Jodi goes to Rowena’s house, but Rowena’s husband is there doing yard work. Rowena isn’t home. He’s confused because Rowena never told him about her experiences with Weinstein. Jodi feels terrible for letting the cat out of the bag and immediately leaves.
Jodi talks to Megan on the phone. She has hit another brick wall. A UK lawyer told her to don’t bother with getting around NDAs because no one ever does it. Megan tells her to forget that guy, but she uses a different f-word.
Jodi calls Laura Madden. However, Laura is having medical issues at this time. Her young children are really troubled by her diagnosis. Laura breaks down in her call with Jodi.
Jodi has tea with Zelda in London. Zelda says people have tried to write this story before, but Weinstein always shut it down. Jodi assures her they will do everything, so that doesn’t happen. Zelda discusses how she fended Harvey off with humor and regression. She would wear puffer jackets or sit in an armchair, not on a couch. Zelda can’t share all her experiences at the Venice Film Festival because of the NDA. But one morning, Rowena came to Zelda in tears. She was crying uncontrollably. Zelda went to confront Weinstein, who was in a meeting with Scorsese. She walked straight up to him and said, “You need to come with me right now,” and he did. He denied it. He swore on his wife and children.
Rowena and Zelda came back to London and resigned. They talked to a lawyer. Zelda told her direct superior, who suggested they get a good lawyer. But 20-year-olds don’t know where to get lawyers, so they feel overwhelmed. Called a firm close to the office, but they said the girls had no chance, no case, no police report from Venice, and no evidence. The lawyers kept saying a settlement was the only way to go because, with rape, it is impossible to get a prosecution.
Zelda insisted no money should change hands. But the girls would sign on certain conditions: 1- If Weinstein had another settlement within two years, it would have to be reported to Disney, or else he would be fired. 2- He would go to therapy with Zelda present initially so that he couldn’t lie. 3- H.R. would assign an assistant to protect the women on the staff. If the girls could achieve those, that was what their silence was paying for.
The Weinstein Company had its own conditions, but the girls had to remember them because they wouldn’t give them their own copies. Only visitation rights to their settlements. 1- the girls wouldn’t help the police in a criminal or civil case. 2- They couldn’t talk to their families or therapists about their experiences.
Zelda interviewed for jobs after, but everyone would only say, “why did you leave Harvey?” She would never work in the entertainment industry again. She moved to Guatemala and worked with horses. Zelda then gives Jodi all the documents she had.
Jodi talks to her daughters over zoom. It’s been challenging while she’s been in the U.K., but her oldest daughter asks her what she is reporting on. Jodi doesn’t feel comfortable sharing this topic with such a young girl, and then her daughter asks if it’s about rape. Jodi asks her where she learned that “grown-up” word. The daughter says schoolmates say it often and apologizes. Jodi says she doesn’t have to apologize because she did nothing wrong. Even though Jodi is trying to protect her daughter from the cruel world, its ugliness still shows up.
Laura Madden gets a call from an old colleague who asks if she’s been approached by “roach” reporters. The colleague says working for Harvey in the past was great, and if Laura had a project, the colleague could bring it to Harvey now. Laura picks up what the lady is lying down and says she’ll talk to whom she pleases and hangs up.
Laura arranges a meeting with Jodi, who hops on a train the next day. Laura was a production assistant in the 90s. She was assigned to Weinstein. One morning he asked for a massage while he was naked. She turned him down. He said it’s not sexual, and all the girls do it. It’s just work. He then commanded her to take her top off, bra off, and trousers off. Then Laura asked him to leave her alone. But he carried on. Next, he’s in the shower, touching himself. And her crying annoyed him. She ran out of there, and we’re taken to the beginning of the film. Laura is the P.A. running down a city street, crying uncontrollably.
She carried on with such shame, and she assumed other girls were stronger to refuse him. It was like he took her voice that day, just as she was finding it.
Back in New York, Weinstein calls the Times. Dean suggests Weinstein talk to the reporters on the record. Weinstein mentions he loves the truth.
The reporters, lawyers, and editors regroup. The documents from Zelda are the most significant thing, but no one can go on the record because of their NDAs, and the famous actresses aren’t ready to go on the record even though they didn’t sign NDAs.
Megan and Jodi meet with Weinstein’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, at the Times offices. He acknowledges that men these days are learning what consensual actually means, including Harvey. The lawyer talks a little too much, which leads Megan to ask a question that the lawyer doesn’t know how to answer. He needs to figure out what his legal options are. She asked, “how many settlements?”
Jodi gets a call in the middle of the night. The woman only says, “I used to work at Miramax. Talk to Irwin Reiter.” The next scene shows Jodi with Reiter, and she asks Reiter if he can confirm the settlements and if company money was used. Before Reiter leaves, he asks why she is so interested in the 90s settlements when there’s been so many recently. This is a revelation Jodi wasn’t expecting.
Megan heard that Ambra Battilana Gutierrez got a seven-figure settlement, and Weinstein now owns the recording. Megan questions Lanny Davis about it. He confirms that it’s eight to twelve settlements.
Megan and Jodi talk about their nightmares and sleepless nights and worry about whether or not people will care once the story runs. However, neither regret signing up for this story.
Jodi meets again with Reiter. She asks for proof of the settlements. He doesn’t help her.
Rowena calls Jodi out of the blue. They meet in New York. Rowena grew up in a Chinese household which prioritized protecting the family. Late one night while working for Weinstein, Rowena and he was going over scripts and notes. He made it a game, held her down, and begged for “just one thrust.” She ran out of there and went to Zelda’s room. Like Zelda, she couldn’t find work again. Rowena agreed to take a job in Hong Kong for the Weinstein Company, but her trauma changed her. She tried to commit suicide.
Jodi meets with Reiter again. Without naming the actress, she shows him a document with a detailed account of how Weinstein assaulted her. He didn’t think it was anything like that.
He brings up a memo on his phone and leaves for the restroom, and tells her, “do with it what you want.” Jodi starts taking multiple pictures of it with her phone. It’s an internal memo that circulated at Miramax in 2015 detailing abuse allegations against Weinstein from a former employee.
Jodi reads the memo from Lauren O’Conner. She is an ex-Miramax employee who wrote the board. In it, she details her account and Weinstein’s abuse of power. Rebecca talks with Lauren’s attorney. They plan to use Lauren’s name in the article for credibility though they will say Lauren is not the source of the memo.
Jodi and Megan begin to write the story. They plan to tell their sources publication is imminent. And they reach out to the Weinstein company for comment.
Jodi reaches out to Ashley Judd again. Ideally, a group of women jumping together would be best, but that’s not what’s happening. They do have a mountain of evidence and predatory pattern.
Yet, Ashley would be coming forward alone. Ashley promises to think about it seriously.
Jodi vents to Megan her frustration of not being able to convince just one woman to go on the record. The group waits for two hours for a call from Weinstein and his lawyer. Weinstein wants to know who they have talked to, especially if they talked to Gwyneth.
Ashley Judd calls Jodi while finishing her run in the mountains. She agrees to be named in the article, which brings Jodi to tears.
The lead of the article now is Ashley Judd’s account of the Peninsula hotel. They publish as soon as the piece is in good shape. Everything comes together, and they get confirmation of eight to twelve settlements though Lanny Davis writes up a response that could be a novel.
Weinstein shows up at the Times offices. In the conference room, the group deals with an irate Weinstein. Weinstein and the company try to discredit the actresses with statements in Variety and Hollywood Reporter. He claims to be surprised by the Times article. And keeps asking if Gwyneth Paltrow is in the article and if they have talked to Gwyneth.
Laura Madden calls Jodi before she goes in for surgery. She also agrees to be named in the article since she didn’t sign an NDA. She’s speaking out for the women who can’t speak for themselves.
The Times publishes the article on October 5, 2017. Follow-up articles are published. Other women come forward with more allegations against Weinstein. There is a global shift in attitudes, and the rise of the Me Too movement places a spotlight on this behavior.