Weinstein’s repute for sexual trespass had began early, when he was a concert promoter in Buffalo. As he aged, his influence waned — the entire movie industry waned — just as he was looking for younger prey, from a cohort that “increasingly spent their free time on social networks like Facebook,” Auletta reminds, “reasonably than going to the films.”
After the producer, then in his 60s, lunged from his office couch at Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, a 22-year-old Miss Italy finalist, in 2015 — “when he reached for her breasts like he was at an all-you-can-eat buffet,” as Auletta puts it — she did what many previous women who had been in her position, fearful of Weinstein’s towering power, had been loath to do: She called the police. A publicist’s try and discredit Gutierrez was met with indignant cries that she was being “slut-shamed.” The fourth wave of feminism had arrived with a giant splash, pulling Weinstein and his ilk into the undertow.
And yet the male foreman of the jury that convicted Weinstein, Auletta points out, cited the testimony and behavior of male witnesses, not female victims — “suggesting,” Auletta writes, “that ‘consider women’ may face a steep uphill climb.’” He proposes as an alternative “hearken to women”; but one key woman’s voice is forged as soul-crushingly loud.
Looking for Rosebud, Auletta alights, for lack of higher explanations, on the Weinstein brothers’ flame-haired and apparently flame-tempered mother, Miriam (for whom their company was named, together with their milder father, Max, a diamond cutter who died of a heart attack at 52). A childhood friend told Auletta that Harvey referred to Miriam as “Momma Portnoy,” after the shrill character in Philip Roth’s “Portnoy’s Grievance.”
Bob, who someway avoided growing right into a “beast,” as Harvey is repeatedly described here, allows for the potential of Miriam’s frustration at her life’s limitations. “She might have been Sheryl Sandberg or considered one of these C.E.O.s of an organization. She had that type of smarts,” he told Auletta. As a substitute, she proudly brought rugelach to her sons’ headquarters, and had an epitaph worthy of Dorothy Parker: “I don’t just like the atmosphere or the gang.”
As there was a roving “fifth Beatle,” so there have been a series of Miramax executives nicknamed the “third brother” — loyalists who helped to enable bad behavior — and, chillingly, a form of “conveyor system to funnel women” to Weinstein’s hotel suites. If you happen to’re not all for the NC-17 and sometimes disgusting particulars of what happened in those suites, nor within the headsmacking convolutions of nondisclosure agreements, perhaps you’d prefer considered one of the disgraced protagonist’s recommendations from the more tasteful era he worshiped, Elia Kazan’s autobiography, “A Life,” or a book Weinstein was often seen carrying during trial preparation: “The Brothers Mankiewicz,” by Sydney Ladensohn Stern. Herman Mankiewicz is credited with the screenplay for “Citizen Kane”; his brother, Joe, wrote “All About Eve.”
Recalling those great movies, and even some from Miramax’s glory days within the ’90s, feels dispiriting, as the photographs, to paraphrase “Sunset Boulevard,” proceed to get smaller. Going along for the ride of Weinstein’s slow rise and fall, even with the able Auletta at one’s side, can feel much more dispiriting, like getting on considered one of those creaky roller coasters at a faded municipal playland.