Over the course of Untouchable’s 98 minutes, you face dozens upon dozens of Harvey Weinstein portraits blasted across the screen with a rat-a-tat rate of machine gun fire. You stare down the barrel of his gaze, and your preconceived notions of his newsworthy atrocities pack each shot with nauseating venom. As the film progresses, the sensation worsens. This is the glare of a monster. A monster we’ve always known but only recently have been willing to confront.
To borrow a word from actress Paz De La Huerta, Weinstein, as presented, is absolutely “repulsive.” Today, that’s easy and obvious to say. Yesterday, it might still have been obvious, but not as easy. The Miramax mogul built an empire using tactics familiar to mobsters, wielding the muscle of money and employing an army of henchman to intimidate results. If you were a woman who wandered into his crosshairs, your options were A) submit or B) keep your mouth shut. Harvey was repercussion-less.
None of this is news.
Untouchable collects the narrative assembled by investigative reporters Ronan Farrow, Megan Twohey, and Jodi Kantor of The New Yorker and The New York Times. The stories are damning, absolutely brutal, and not-at-all surprising. Their reporting was the signal flare that launched the #MeToo movement and unveiled a seemingly endless torrent of sexual predators. As a result, we’ve become accustomed to the grotesque. The horror is not extraordinary but ordinary, making its accepted presence all the more reprehensible. We’re not comfortably numb, but necessarily so. We put down the paper aghast, then ruffle our way to the sports page.
So, why bother? Why re-tread ground documented exceptionally by The New Yorker, The New York Times, and dozens of others since? The most obvious and simple answer is that these women who fell prey to this predator need as many platforms to yell their story as possible. Their accusations in print are one thing, but the opportunity to weaponize their gaze is something altogether different. Now, we must face their blazing stare; hear their pain, witness their strength. It’s certainly harrowing, but mostly their similar sagas are piercing.
In allowing Rosanna Arquette, Caitlin Dulany, Erika Rosenbaum, and others the time to detail their all-too-similar experiences, director Ursula Macfarlane attacks our desensitized culture. Here is a confrontation between filmmaker and consumer, where the audience is trapped with their accounts; where they cannot skim through their pain to reach the entertainment section. We must reconcile with the pedestal in which we place power.
As their tales build one atop the other, the violator of the story grows beyond that of Weinstein. Macfarlane goes into the hallways of Miramax. She places the secretaries, the accountants, and the CEOs in front of her camera and she lets them damn themselves. Some claimed to believe in a sexual currency being exchanged behind hotel doors, while others acknowledge the “open secret” of Weinstein’s lecherous behavior. The studio’s success provided an unstoppable momentum of “get out of jail” money, that didn’t so much silence victims as it did bury them under a mountain of willful ignorance.
You may believe you already know the story of Untouchable. You may even be right. I would still encourage you to seek out Macfarlane’s documentation. We owe it to these women and to ourselves to catalog their stories and appreciate the unchecked horror our fetishizing of wealth creates.