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Hannah Woodhead

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Untouchable – first look review

This urgent Harvey Weinstein documentary seeks to get to the root of our culture of sexual abuse.

Although Ursula Macfarlane’s Untouchable might be the first documentary about Harvey Weinstein, it almost certainly won’t be the last. In the 15 months since the Hollywood mogul was exposed in The New York Times and The New Yorker, there have been countless articles, interviews, protests, movements started – and Weinstein is still yet to stand trial. Untouchable seeks to get to the root of the insidious culture of sexual abuse and cover-ups which allowed Weinstein to prey on women for four decades, but unfortunately does little more than retread old ground.

Through testimony from Weinstein’s victims, including Paz De La Huerta, Roseanne Arquette and Nannette Klatt, as well as former Miramax and Weinstein employees, Macfarlane traces Weinstein’s rise to power from music promoter in Buffalo, New York to one of the most influential men in America. It’s a slick and glossy production, full of stylistic flourishes and moody establishing shots of locations key to the Weinstein scandal (New York City, Cannes, Venice, Toronto, London), but somehow this feels strangely hollow, as if trying to frame the story as a Making of a Murderer-style true crime case.

This speaks to the major problem: there isn’t much that the film can offer which isn’t already public knowledge, and for anyone who has read the initial exposes by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey in The New York Times and Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker, the story will be a very familiar one. Even more frustrating are the instances where the film touches upon an interesting idea, only to shy away from it – when one Miramax high-up admits that he struggles with guilt after realising his silence was as good as complicity, there’s a yearning to hear others admit as much too. Weinstein might be a monster, but he was given carte blanche by an industry too afraid of losing money to deny him anything.

To wit, the documentary doesn’t do much to position Weinstein as part of a wider conversation about the imbalance of power between men and women, and to discuss how Time’s Up and #MeToo have become bigger causes than simply addressing Weinstein’s actions. Particularly at the moment, while a man accused of systematic abuse has a film nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, it’s hard to feel like Untouchable’s ‘We will not be silenced’ throughline really has any actual meaning.

Perhaps when the dust has settled and more people are willing to tell the truth, we’ll receive a documentary that really gets to the heart of Hollywood’s sex/power dynamics, but Untouchable feels like it’s just going through the motions.

Published 26 Jan 2019

Tags: Harvey Weinstein Sundance Film Festival Ursula Macfarlane

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