No matter what you think of Michael Douglas as an actor, he has demonstrated a good sense of smell for choosing socially relevant yet commercial movies. Disclosure, the new Barry Levinson psychosexual thriller set in the corporate world, is only skin-deep in treating its central problem, sexual harassment in the work place. But the movie, a high-concept pulp fiction, is well made and it pulls you in even as you resist the temptation.
One day film historians will group Michael Douglas' star vehicles, Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct and Disclosure, into a trilogy that can be labeled “Sexual Anxieties of the White Male in Contemporary Society.” The setting of the new film, which is based on Michael Crichton's bestseller, bears resemblance to that of other Douglas urban potboilers, such as Wall Street and Falling Down.
The premise of the manipulative melodrama is simple: Tom Sanders (Douglas) is an ambitious yuppie who becomes “victimized,” through charges of sexual harassment, by his attractive female boss, Meredith Johnson (Moore), an old flame he briefly dated.
What's new in the picture is not the power games, malicious manipulation, deceit and greed in the corporate world, but the setting, a computer plant, which is state-of-the-art technology, including virtual reality. Disclosure may contribute to the popularization of e-mail, which occupies a central role in the plot. Tom gets messages via e-mail from an anonymous source that just identifies itself as “a friend.”
After the screening, some colleagues complained that the film was not sleazy or trashy enough and that there should have been more sex in it. Perhaps. My criticism, however, concerns the narrow characterization of all the roles, particularly the women's.
Demi Moore plays a one-dimensional villainess, a female predator, who is even more stereotypical than Glenn Close's role in Fatal Attraction. The movie makes no effort to understand her as a single, sexually aggressive career woman.
Once again Hollywood lags behind social reality. We have already heard of cases in which males were sexually harassed by their female bosses. And the fact that Meredith is shown harassing Tom in the first sequence works against the suspense of the film, which unfolds as yet another version of a wrongly accused man fighting to restore justice and credibility as an honest husband-father.
Though decently directed, Disclosure is also one of Levinson's most impersonal movies. After the failure of his last two projects, Toys and Jimmy Hollywood, this talented and diverse director (Diner, Tin Men, Bugsy) probably felt pressure to take a project he didn't care much about just in order to prove his commercial viability in a town where the ditcum is, “you're good as your last picture.”
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