harmful sentiments among conservative members of the population that many harassment or rape victims are lying to tear their attacker down, and that many businesswomen are not hired for their skill but rather to make their companies look diverse, for instance.
Under the guise of the erotic thriller, the guilty pleasure genre that made it big in Hollywood following the release of 1987’s Fatal Attraction (which also starred Douglas), we still enjoy Disclosure for much of its length, as its villain is generally well-defined — the ultimate femme fatale, even — and because it does not always so readily sympathize with its protagonist. It also looks great, appealing to our materialistic desires in the same way big budget melodramas of the 1930s did by placing actors in expansive, lavish sets all the while dressing them in the most beautiful of clothes and surrounding them in the most opulent of furniture.
But after a couple plot twists snap our necks somewhere toward the bottom half of the feature, the movie goes from dated popcorn fare (popcorn fare so sensorily stimulating we forget to much pay attention to all its wrongs) to the tone deaf mess of the movie described earlier. Once its spell wears thin and we’re able to see its convoluted developments and its damaging contributions to ideas about sexual and professional politics, we can be relieved that such a film, despite being a huge success during its original theatrical run, could never be made today and not be thoroughly vilified.
It stars Michael Douglas as Tom Sanders, a computer company employee in charge of the business’s production line. Because the corporation for which he works is merging with another, Sanders expects to get a promotion. He has seniority over most of his colleagues, and has been turning in uniformly good work for years.
But to his dismay, it is announced that Meredith Johnson (Demi Moore), an entrepreneur – and former lover – who has since moved to California, has been flown to the film’s central Seattle and hired for the job. Sanders might be disappointed now, but perhaps his not getting a promotion will seem like nothing when the computer business really booms just a year or so later and a company like his, which specializes in the manufacturing of CD-ROMs and programs made for flash rather than practicality, will be bankrupted anyway.
Later that day, Johnson invites Sanders to her office to discuss operations, with red wine supplementing the meeting. Immediately it seems as though both desire to restart their relationship. Sanders, now married, with kids, and drunk with the belief that he’s a completely moral man, gives his former lady love an impromptu massage, with Johnson hinting at wanting something more.
Moments later are the ex-lovers in the pre-stages of a steamy rendezvous, clothes ripping and dirty talk (by Sanders) as prevalent in the air as the pair’s wine-drenched breath and the chill of Johnson’s ritzy Seattle office. But some moments into the would-be sexual exchange, which establish Sanders as a man who maybe isn’t all that into monogamy, the latter catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror and realizes the mistake he’s about to make.
He peppers the room with a bunch of half-hearted “no’s” and then aggressively forces Johnson off him. Johnson is embarrassed, then enraged. As Sanders flees her office, she screams as he heads to the front door. “You’re finished!” she wails. A cleaning woman looks on, disillusioned by the immorality of the building’s highers-up.
Sanders hopes the entire ordeal can be forgotten, not only because his family is important to him (though not important enough to prevent enticement) but also because Johnson is his boss now. But such is a luxury he cannot afford. Before he can do so much as process the encounter, Johnson has filed a sexual harassment complaint against him.
Disclosure might have been an engrossing corporate drama if it stuck with sexual politics to fuel its theatrics, watching as Sanders’ livelihood slips through his fingers thanks to one misguided decision that backfires. But because the film, and novel, roots for a hero I mostly find to be despicable (Douglas seems to have perfected the heroic asshole role in the late 1980s and early ‘90s), it’s no surprise, and thus a letdown, that all is not what it seems, and that the world may actually be out to get him after all. (A later scheme, totally moronic, aims to get Sanders fired for incompetence. But wouldn’t it arguably be much easier to simply fire him than go through the motions of making a quasi-blueprint?)
That the world has its sights set on ruining a financial stable, generally nice, middle-aged white guy for apparently no reason in Disclosure underlines that it was probably made by people who also believe that racism against caucasians can exist, too. It has no real perspective.
But I digress. There’s much in Disclosure to enjoy, even though much of it is head-scratching. (Consider one scene finds Moore divulging her evil plans to a sidekick in full volume while exercising in the office’s gym late one night, Sanders coincidentally moping right outside.) Moore is a hoot as a minx always with a lacerating monologue to whip out when the time is right; Roma Maffia, as Sanders’ scrappy lawyer, is the best thing about the film, with her imposing body language and searing delivery. The sets also seem to be characters in themselves, all sprawling, expensive, and enhancers of the allure of finding melodrama in high places. The dialogue snaps with the finesse of classic Raymond Chandler. The scrutiny of the computer world is a fun touch, too, though mostly because the technological output of the film is so dated a couple unintentional laughs come to light here and there.
But Disclosure is glamorous nonsense, an entertaining two hours until you digest everything you’ve seen and heard and start to realize that it’s more dreck than sizzling soap opera. It’s undoubtedly an engaging thriller you’ll want to discuss post-viewing. But unfortunately, most of that discussion comes from what the movie does wrong. C+
2 Hrs., 8 Mins.
Disclosure August 9, 2017
arry Levinson’s Disclosure (1994), adapted from the novel of the same name by Michael Crichton, takes a nightmarish what-if scenario that perhaps could only proliferate in the privileged mind of a straight white man who doesn’t have a clue about the world outside of his protected one. It takes a crucial issue — sexual harassment in the workplace — and trivializes it, making a struggle many professional women face regularly and turning it into something a successful, middle-aged corporate type suddenly suffers from for the sake of making an expensive Hollywood thriller. In many ways does it perpetuate the