PBS ‘Frontline’ and BBC ‘Panorama’ take on Harvey Weinstein

Just in time for the Oscars he won’t be attending, PBS and the BBC have joined forces for a straightforward yet scathing rundown of the rapid unraveling of Harvey Weinstein. “Weinstein,” which will air in the US on Frontline tonight (9pm Eastern/10pm Central, but check your local listings), and “Weinstein: The Inside Story,” which aired on BBC One last night and is now available on iPlayer, are not exactly the same documentary: Emily Watson narrates the BBC version, while iconic Frontline narrator Will Lyman handles the PBS version; and some interviewees are included in one but not the other, and some interviews are slightly shorter or longer in the different versions. But they’re working from the same script and the same source material: the shocking firsthand stories of people who worked for and with Weinstein since the beginning of his career, and from journalists who have been investigating the rumors surrounding him for years.

Famous women tell their stories here, and unfamous ones: Weinstein did not discriminate, and his MO was remarkably similar from the beginning, when he harassed an intern on the very first film he produced, 1981’s The Burning. We get disgusting tales of Weinstein appearing before women dressed in an open bathrobe, demanded massages, and simply lunging in for grabs and kisses, and worse. A male production exec who worked at Miramax describes Weinstein as abusive and controlling in nonsexual office situations, too; others speak of how Weinstein would simply collapse into tears on the rare occasion when he’d be called on his behavior. It adds up very quickly to a portrait of a pathetic, insecure bully who got off on exerting power over others. And we also come to understand just how Weinstein wielded his influence to keep his victims quiet, from the implicit threat of careers that would be ruined or that would never get off the ground at all, to the explicit intimidation supplied by lawyers and private investigators.

The open secret in Hollywood of Weinstein’s awfulness is now public knowledge, with more women coming forward all the time; accusers we hadn’t heard from before are featured here, and some we’d only heard from before in print, such as Sean Young, speak now on camera. Their anger and their upset is palpable, and their horror stories are not going away anytime soon. “Weinstein” is good primer to get up to speed on how we got here, and it offers a few hints at how much more story there may still be to tell.

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