For years, Harvey Weinstein’s powerful career allowed him to domineer over Hollywood without repercussions, but in “Untouchable,” director Ursula Macfarlane (“One Deadly Weekend in America”) helps victims of his abuse speak their truths through interviews and archived material. With no introduction to the crimes Weinstein committed, the documentary dives immediately into Erika Rosenbaum’s story and her experience as a young actress who was assaulted by Weinstein after meeting him at in Hollywood.
From there, “Untouchable” jumps in between victims’ testimonials to try and capture the essence of Weinstein’s grotesque abuse of power during his time with Miramax, a film production company. In several different ways, the documentary makes clear that if Weinstein hadn’t had the ability to sweep his actions under the rug with such ease — which consisted of carefully detailed non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and cash settlements — there would have been more than enough evidence to prove that he was the culprit of these crimes.
Zelda Perkins, Weinstein’s former assistant, provides several details on this matter and delves deeper into Weinstein’s temperament as well. She admits that she originally didn’t take his words and actions very seriously, and often warned others that “he will behave inappropriately” but reassuring them that if they dealt with him “robustly,” then it would be fine. That is, until another one of Weinstein’s assistants divulged the story of her assault at the hands of Weinstein. Perkins resigned, but Weinstein grew anxious, leaving around 18 voicemails asking her to meet him. When she eventually signed an NDA, Weinstein’s team made sure to cover all bases, adding to the contract that if they went to court over the matter, Perkins was contractually obligated to try and keep Miramax in good standing.
Several NDAs were signed, but rumors started to spread throughout the industry. Many had heard and believed that actresses were having sex with Weinstein to get better roles, and had consequently turned a blind eye to the matter. At the time, and probably to this day, the film industry holds its demons away from the public eye. In Weinstein’s hayday, he was, essentially, untouchable.
Andrew Goldman, a reporter, recalls an instance where he caught Weinstein speaking indecently on his recorder. Weinstein grew quickly agitated, and tried to snatch the recorder out of his hand. Weinstein smashed Goldman over his head multiple times, and Goldman distinctly remembers seeing other reporters taking pictures of the incident. But none of them ever surfaced in the media. It goes to show how Weinstein and his team ultimately controlled what the public thought of him at the time, and despite the times he could have been exposed, maintained a relatively clean reputation for far too long.
In terms of the documentary itself, at times the theatrics were dramatic to a fault, and slightly distracting for the graveness of the story. The stories themselves were harrowing enough, the documentary could have done with a little less dramatic sound effects and B-roll. Nevertheless, this was a story that had to be told, and despite its medium, the world has taken a step toward justice with documentaries that seek to expose the truth. It’s absolutely unacceptable that Weinstein escaped accountability for so long, and still has not faced the full consequences of his actions. The only upside to his offenses is that we know now that no matter how long it takes, the truth will always come out, and we won’t stop until those truths are acknowledged and actions are taken.