Disclosure (Barry Levinson, 1994)
A computer specialist is sued for sexual harassment by a former lover turned boss who initiated the act forcefully, which threatens both his career and his personal life.
Originally this project was supposed to be directed by Academy Award winner Milos Forman, but he left the project and it was then offered to Barry Levinson and Alan J. Pakula. Levinson was still hot from his Oscar win of Rain Man, a Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman vehicule that is probably overly sentimental but very entertaining. Pakula another Oscar winner for All the President’s Men had his best films out and, let’s say, didn’t really had much gas left in the tank. So the job went to Barry Levinson who did an OK job with a script that proved to be a very successful box office wise movie. Let’s say that it was one of the first times that sexual harassment was showcased as direct as this. It is also interesting because it happened on the job and that it is one of the common places of sexual harassment since men are more subject to receive promotions and have the power.
The set up of the story on the merge of a multinational company and the ambitions of power between the sexes was a film of its time. The company, making Compact Disc players and specialized in computers and technology must have made people dream about the possibilities of the first emails. Well, when technology is displayed in movies it quickly becomes outdated since the communications have been exploding since the last twenty years.
The portrait of Tom Sanders (Michael Douglas), the ambitious computer specialist who thought would received a promotion while it’s his former girlfriend Meredith Johnson (Demi Moore) who got it. The night she got promoted they get together and Tom decides to stop before anything can happen because he is now married and it would be wrong. The next day he receives a complaint of sexual harassment that would change his relationship with everyone around him, his wife (Caroline Goodall), his boss (Donald Sutherland), and his assistant. Until he discovers that it is all about a question of power and control that lies beneath this situation.
While widely playing on the sex appeal of Demi Moore, the film is filled with many flaws that goes from the uneven pacing of the story that seemed to be filmed in episodes. There is also the useless browsing into the database made in 3D to impress the viewer and that is very useless because who would want to be in a virtual environment to consult his records about an assembly line?
The biggest mess of the film is the conclusion that unties every bows in less than five minutes and in a way that even Michael Douglas’ character seem to be unconvinced and denatured. The Film Noir elements of Disclosure seem to have fade away and the commercial issues have taken the control of the ending of the movie. Sadly, it lets a bitter aftertaste and the overly sticky simplified conclusion of Levinson’s film of 128 minutes seemed to have been faulty on purpose. The unilateral writing of Demi Moore’s character gives a misogynist perception in Disclosure. Every woman, pictured is one note and even the lawyer Catherine Alvarez portrayed by Roma Maffia, is a strong woman but still fell into the cliché of the strong woman.
It is very clear that Disclosure was a sure investment for the studios with Michael Douglas who have been into similar thriller, the beauty of Demi Moore, and the subject matter of a woman who wants to manipulate a man would get a great reception. However, it is a film that reduces its viewer to a simple story full of stereotypes and that didn’t effloresce the subject it would have had to if it didn’t had had the commercial greed it clearly had and received. Moreover, the need to explain every bit of story is pretty annoying since the plot is not that complicated after all.