Sundance Film Review: ‘Untouchable’

Of all the terrifying things Harvey Weinstein has ever said — insults hurled, jobs threatened, tantrums unleashed — perhaps the most blood-chilling are these six words: “Don’t you know who I am!?” That’s the line actress Nannette Klatt recalls the powerful producer bellowing when she declined his advances in a private hotel-room meeting. For decades, Weinstein — a Hollywood outsider who’d hustled his way into the industry’s inner circle — was one of the most powerful men in showbiz. He could make careers, and he could crush them. For the nearly quarter-century he was on top — earning Oscars, making money, and peddling influence — Weinstein was above the law.

He was, so to speak, “Untouchable.”

In her powerhouse documentary of the same name, director Ursula Macfarlane turns that word against Weinstein, empowering his accusers while also holding those who’d been complicit in his crimes accountable. For months after the New York Times dropped its bombshell exposé on the former “Miramax” mogul’s abuse of power in Oct. 2016, people asked whether the story might blow over, speculating that things might go back to how they had been. In countless follow-ups and think pieces, pundits used the word “disgraced” to describe the one-time titan, and “alleged” to refer to his offenses — protecting themselves, but also protecting him to a degree.

Truth be told, whatever a court may find, Weinstein was toast. A pariah. Untouchable.

35 PHOTOS
Women who have accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment or assault
See Gallery
Women who have accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment or assault
Kadian Noble, has filed a lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein in New York federal court accusing the movie producer of sex trafficking by inviting her to a hotel room in France and sexually assaulting her.
Paz de la Huerta, who stars on HBO's 'Boardwalk Empire,' claims Harvey Weinstein raped her on two separate occasions in 2010: "I was in no state. I was so terrified of him," she told Vanity Fair. "I did say no, and when he was on top of me, I said, 'I don't want to do this' ... It was disgusting. He's like a pig."
British actress Lysette Anthony has publicly accused Harvey Weinstein of raping her in her home in the late 1980s.
Amber Anderson said Harvey Weinstein 'behaved inappropriately' and bragged about other actresses he had 'helped' in exchange for sexual favors.
Natassia Malthe has accused Weinstein of raping her in a hotel room. On a separate occasion, after she was assured that Weinstein would not come onto her, she was allegedly escorted to Weinstein's hotel room by an assistant. In the room was another woman, who performed oral sex on Weinstein whil he asked Malthe to join.
Lupita Nyong'o wrote a detailed essay for the New York Times recounting multiple incidents with Weinstein, including an evening during which he asked her to give him a nude massage while his family was in the same home.
Marisa Coughlan said that she planned to meet Weinstein for a meeting at his hotel. Instead, he requested a massage.

Heather Graham said Weinstein told her he had an agreement with his wife that allowed him to sleep with whomever he wants. He then asked him to meet her to discuss a film project at his hotel, falsely telling her that her friend would also be present. She declined.

French actress Judith Godreche has accused Weinstein of inappropriately pressing up against her, trying to remove her sweater and asking for a massage.

Lauren Holly said that during a seemingly normal meeting with Weinstein to discuss a project, he began disrobing, got into the shower, and went to the bathroom while continuing to converse with her. He then allegedly asked her for a massage. She fled. 
Angie Everhart said that she was sleeping in her own cabin on a yacht when Harvey Weinstein entered, blocked the door and began masturbating. He told her not to tell anyone, but she "told everyone," including many actors and producers. In response, most told her that it was just Harvey being Harvey. In an interview with TMZ, she emphasized that anyone in the industry who knew Harvey at all knew that he regularly did things like what he allegedly did to her.
Kate Beckinsale has accused Harvey Weinstein of coming onto her in his hotel room when she was 17 years old.
Tara Subkoff said that in the 1990s, on the same day that she was offered a major movie role, she met Harvey Weinstein at a party. He allegedly made her sit on his lap while he had an erection. He then told her that if he did not do certain sexual things, she would not get the role that she'd already been offered. She declined. Afterward, she said, her "reputation was ruined by false gossip" and she found it near impossible to book roles.
Minka Kelly said that Harvey Weinstein offered her a lavish lifestyle in exchange for being his extramarital girlfriend. She declined.
Gwyneth Paltrow told the New York Times that Harvey Weinstein asked her for a massage in his hotel suite. After she told then-boyfriend Brad Pitt, Pitt confronted him, leading Weinstein to contact Paltrow and "scream" at her, she said.
Asia Argento has accused Weinstein of raping her in his hotel room when she was 21. She first reluctantly agreed to give him a massage, and then he forcibly performed oral sex on her. During subsequent encounters, she had consensual sexual relations with him due to fear that he would otherwise ruin her career.
Rose McGowan has publicly accused Harvey Weinstein of rape. In October 2016, she tweeted reference to a studio head raping her. In October 2017, in a tweet to Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, McGowan referred to Weinstein by name while repeating her rape accusation. The alleged incident took place in the 1990s and resulted in a financial settlement.
Cara Delevingne has accused Harvey Weinstein of attempting to coerce her into kissing another woman in his hotel room. She had just begun her acting career and believed they were meeting just to finalize talks for a film role.
Angelina Jolie said she had a "bad experience with Harvey Weinstein in my youth" and refused to work with him subsequently.
Jessica Barth has accused Harvey Weinstein of demanding that she get naked and give him a massage.
Emma de Caunes has accused Harvey Weinstein of unexpectedly getting naked and demanding that she lie down as other women had supposedly done before her.
Lauren Sivan has accused Harvey Weinstein of cornering her in a public space and masturbating to completion in front of her.
Mira Sorvino, seen here at a Weinstein Co. event in January 2017, said that after refusing Harvey Weinstein's advances, he dissuaded others in the industry from hiring her.
Ambra Battilana has accused Harvey Weinstein of groping her breasts and reaching under her skirt. She went to the NYPD and then conducted a sting operation, the audio of which was published by the New Yorker. In the audio, Weinstein can be heard attempting to coerce her to enter his hotel room.
Louisette Geiss has accused Harvey Weinstein of luring her to his hotel room after assuring her he wouldn't hit on her. He then disrobed and repeatedly asked her to watch him masturbate, telling her he would produce her screenplay if she did.
Emily Nestor (far right), a former Weinstein Co. employee, has accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment.
Rosanna Arquette has accused Harvey Weinstein of dissuading others from hiring her after she rejected his sexual advances.
Rose McGowan has publicly accused Weinstein of sexual harassment. She has also accused others in the industry of knowing of Weinstein's misconduct and either actively or passively hiding it.
Ashley Judd has publicly accused Harvey Weinstein of asking her for a massage and then asking her to watch him shower.
Florence Darel has accused Harvey Weinstein of coming onto her in a hotel suite in 1996 while his wife was in the room next door.
Zoe Brock (left, in 2004) has accused Weinstein of getting naked and chasing her around a hotel room after she refused to give him a massage.
Katherine Kendall (right, in 2006) has accused Harvey Weinstein of disrobing and asking for a massage in his apartment after a movie screening, telling her that "everybody does it." He then asked her to at least show him her breasts, which she refused.
Romola Garai has accused Harvey Weinstein of making her feel "violated" when he watched her audition wearing only a bathrobe in his hotel room.
Lea Seydoux has accused Harvey Weinstein of forcibly trying to kiss her on the lips in 2012.
Claire Forlani said she "escaped" Harvey Weinstein on five occasions. He allegedly told her about all the actresses he had slept with and how he had in turn established their careers. He also attempted to get her to give him a massage.
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

With Weinstein on the ropes, Macfarlane pulls no punches, doing a fair but unflinching job of letting those he once dominated share their narrative. The fact that they do so on camera makes what they have to say that much more impactful, and Macfarlane does their testimony justice, delivering a hard-hitting documentary that speaks truth to power.

It’s the echo of that power which reverberates in the ambiguous but unmistakably threatening subtext of a line like, “Don’t you know who I am!?” Frankly, did we ever really know who Weinstein was? When you get right down to it, he wielded a mobster-like menace: shady, undefined, but probably best not to question — especially if you were a 100-pound woman who found herself alone with him in a hotel room, the way Hope D’Amore describes what happened as one of his earliest co-workers with a company called Harvey & Corky Prods.

The way Macfarlane shoots that interview with D’Amore sets “Untouchable” apart from so many other true-crime documentaries. The camera fixes on the survivor as she tells her story and doesn’t cut away, even as she struggles to find the words to describe what she endured. For decades, rumors swirled in Hollywood about Weinstein’s misconduct. “An open secret” some have called it (although that phrase was reserved for Amy Berg’s all-but-suppressed Bryan Singer documentary a few years back), corroborated by a Courtney Love interview and Seth MacFarlane’s infamous Oscar joke.

But separate from the issue of Weinstein’s influence was the fact that news outlets have a legal and journalistic responsibility of getting victims to go on the record before running such an incendiary story. That feat was finally accomplished by Ronan Farrow, Megan Twohey, and Jodi Kantor, all three of whom (along with Farrow’s New Yorker ally Ken Auletta) appear about two-thirds of the way into the film. Their reporting transformed so much — toppling a monster and galvanizing the #MeToo movement — that, two years after no one would dare speak out against Weinstein, it is now possible to make a talking-heads documentary with more than 30 sources, including eight of Weinstein’s accusers and just as many former colleagues, compelled to come forward despite draconian non-disclosure agreements (former London-based assistant Zelda Perkins reveals the outrageous terms of her own severance agreement). Only one person insists on masking his identity while describing schemes to discredit his accusers.

Still, you say, all of this has already been reported ad nauseam. What more do we need to hear or learn about Weinstein? With heavyweight producer Simon Chinn (“Searching for Sugarman”) in her corner, Macfarlane sets out not merely to recap the allegations against Weinstein, but to put them in context of his entire career, to establish a pattern, and to begin to answer that slippery question of just what makes Weinstein tick — so that, instead of shuddering at his inflated sense of self, we might begin to know who he is.

To construct that picture, she collects candid interviews from Weinstein’s former employees, uncovering a mix of gratitude and disgruntlement from such Miramax vets as Jack Lechner, John Schmidt, Mark Gill, and Kathy Declesis (who tells a story about intercepting a legal document that directly contradicts brother Bob Weinstein’s claims that he knew nothing of abuse claims before the New York Times story broke). She also speaks to Lauren O’Connor, the Weinstein Company literary scout whose internal memo addressed the toxic culture within the company, supplying a line that said it all: “The balance of power is me: 0, Harvey Weinstein: 10.”

Except that Weinstein’s power had been on the wane in recent years. Despite the charges, the doc is fair about his accomplishments: During his heyday, Weinstein had a hand in movies that have garnered 341 Academy Award nominations — and countless millions for parent company Disney. Either implied or expressed in every interview is admiration and respect for what Weinstein represented: He was a hero to the foreign and independent film market, creating a place for so-called “specialty” movies.

But Weinstein was also a thug, and “Untouchable” illustrates how the equation that O’Connor described changed with “the climate” — a term that here refers to anger over Donald Trump’s election (despite dozens of sexual harassment claims) that fueled the Women’s March and other proactive attempts to take survivors seriously. Macfarlane does that here: She chooses to believe women who had zero credibility a few years ago, assembling enough of them on camera that they add up to more than Weinstein’s 10.

Their collective revelations amount to the biggest story to hit Hollywood during our lifetime. Previously, Weinstein was one of the few executives who might be considered a household name, more famous than most of the directors and stars he worked with. Now it’s downright notorious — and yet, a great many people still don’t know who he is or how he operated. “Untouchable” will change that, delivering a professional, incredibly polished, and undeniably compelling recap of his alleged crimes (there I go diluting the accusations).

Those who’ve been following the developments toward his trial will see how the best lawyer money can buy has managed to chip away at many of the charges. But there is also such a thing as the court of public opinion, and that’s where Macfarlane makes her case, empowering the witnesses who’ve come forward and demanding that we as a society protect one another from abuses in other fields as well. Now that we know and recognize Weinstein for who he really is, we are better equipped to intervene when the next one arises.

Subscribe to Variety Newsletters and Email Alerts!

Read Full Story

Sign up for Entertainment Insider by AOL to get the hottest pop culture news delivered straight to your inbox!

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.