Entertainment, Harvey Weinstein, Movies, Sundance 2019, Untouchable

Harvey Weinstein documentary ‘Untouchable’ hits Sundance: Review

A young Harvey Weinstein.

Image: Barbara Alper / Getty Images / Sundance Institute

Harvey Weinstein and Sundance have a history.

The producer had long been a fixture, picking up future hits and hobnobbing with talent. It was also, we learned in 2017, where he perpetrated some terrible crimes. In 2018, Weinstein sat out the festival for the first time since the ’80s.

In 2019, Weinstein had a presence at the fest yet again – but not as a power player on the ground. This year, he is the subject of Untouchable, Ursula Macfarlane’s 98-minute documentary about the abuses he’s waged on others over the past four decades.

If you’ve been following the Weinstein story since The New Yorker and The New York Times blew it open, Untouchable won’t have any new bombshells to offer. The stories are ones we’ve heard before, from victims who’ve gone on the record in other articles. The observations about Weinstein’s character and talent and personality, and the recollections about the toxic work environment he created, feel familiar by now.

And for all Untouchable rails against the systemic injustices that kept Weinstein in power, and the complicity of the people who looked the other way, it doesn’t really shed any new light on on the institutions or the industry that let him flourish.

What Untouchable does have is the power of these women’s stories, told by them directly to the camera. Though the information isn’t new, the camera picks up other details the printed word can’t: the long pause as one woman struggles with words she can barely bring herself to form, the tremor in another’s voice as she remembers how she tried to piece herself back together. 

The fact that Untouchable is at Sundance this year instead of Harvey Weinstein is certainly a step forward.

The tales from others – like the male executive who remained with Miramax after one of his female friends told him she’d been raped by him – are less harrowing, but serve a similar purpose: All of these firsthand accounts make flesh and blood the people Weinstein affected. 

Untouchable finishes on a tentative note. On the one hand, it presents the #MeToo movement and the Women’s March as a sign that times are changing – “If we could do it in Hollywood, people can do it anywhere.” On the other, it scrupulously points out that locking up one bad person won’t solve the problem.

It’s the part of Untouchable that feels the least confident, but that seems appropriate, too. Even a year and a half after Weinstein’s behavior made front-page headlines, even after he fired from his own company, stripped of his honors, and eventually arrested for his crimes, it remains unclear where we as a society are not just with Weinstein, but with other men like Weinstein.

As Untouchable was making its way to Sundance this year, The Atlantic published an exposé detailing sexual abuse allegations against director Bryan Singer, another Hollywood hotshot whose behavior had long been an open secret. On the first day of Sundance, news broke that Singer would keep his job directing Red Sonja despite those accusations. 

The fact that Untouchable is here this year instead of Weinstein is certainly a step in the right direction. But the actual verdict isn’t in yet. Other abusers still have their jobs and their reputations, and defenders who’ll jump at any opportunity to wonder if these poor men haven’t been punished enough. We’ve still got a long way to go before anyone can reasonably claim Hollywood has solved its sexual abuse problem.

So Untouchable ends the only way it really can: with a voice warning, “It’s not over. It continues.”

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