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Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Retro Review: Disclosure (1994)

Cast: Michael Douglas, Demi Moore, Donald Sutherland, Catherine Goodhall, Roma Maffia
Genre: Semi-Erotic Thriller
Worldwide Box Office Gross: $214 million

Plot: Tom Sanders is a senior executive at a cutting- edge technology corporation on the verge of releasing an innovative new product. Sanders's boss, Bob Galvin is putting the final touches on a potentially lucrative merger and everything is in order for Tom until a vamp from his past, Meredith Johnson swoops in, stealing his impending promotion - and then doubling down- suing him for sexual harassment

'Not As Sordid As Some Say It Is, Disclosure Is A Broad, Engaging Effort About Sexual Harassment When The Shoe Is On The Other Foot'

When I saw the original poster for this film, I was under the distinct impression that Disclosure was going to be some heavy erotic thriller with Michael Douglas having lots of sex with a female actress and nothing more to it than that. Yet to my surprise, as I was watching this movie, I became more engrossed with the storyline and that it shows itself to be a pretty impressive film. But as it's based on a novel by Jurassic Park writer, Michael Crichton, who sold the movie rights for $1 million and right before the novel was published, surely it had to be good, right?

Disclosure follows in the footsteps of Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct as the third in the line of 'Michael Douglas character is the victim' sex-based films and come to think of it and I'm happy to say that with some delight, this is somewhat, but not so much like Fatal Attraction and not like Basic Instinct (thankfully). Not just in terms of the story and plot, but in terms of quality and the film's approach, intrigue and suspense. The story and narrative are much broader and they deal with even wider issues and implications that go with it. 

That the sex scenes aren't just the only and main thing that makes a movie worth seeing, but rather the tension between Tom and Meredith. You will know who is right, as well as who is wrong as the story progresses.

After his ex- Meredith beats him to a promotion, senior member of Digicom and married father, Tom Sanders (Michael Douglas) finds himself seduced by her and tries to withstand Meredith's sexual advances, as she tries to force herself onto him. Tom is then dumbstruck when he finds out Meredith wants to sue him for sexual harassment, and so he goes all out to refute the charges made against him.  

I'm glad this film didn't descend into an utter sleaze fest, despite it being billed as a semi-erotic thriller. The late critic Roger Ebert awarded the film 2 stars out of 4 and said it was basically ''a launch pad for sex scenes.'' However, in viewing this film in its entirety, he is/was wrong on that point, because if you watch it you will see that the sex scenes aren't the only things going for Disclosure and that besides, really, it was just one sex scene and it wasn't as though Demi Moore and Michael Douglas were both fully naked in it. 

On the other hand, it has that underlining issue about sexual harassment going both ways and that it is just as much a male prerogative, just as it is a female prerogative. The rest of the film intertwines corporate cowardice with executive power plays.

The computer technology scenes range from dated to not bad, looking at it today. As for the 18 rating, if this film was released today, it would have garnered a 15 rating instead, because honestly other than the sex scene, the rest of the stuff isn't as 'adult' and explicit as that sex scene between Michael Douglas and Demi Moore itself. 

British actress Caroline Goodall, who played Peter Banning's Wife, Moira opposite Robin Williams's Peter Banning in Hook also features as Tom's wife and I enjoyed her performance in this film, more so than in Hook. Her character tries to deal with the harsh truth that Demi Moore's character gave a blowjob to her husband, Tom. Donald Sutherland and Demi Moore give convincing performances as the bad guys, whilst Roma Maffia as the savvy and abrasive lawyer, Catherine Alverez is impressive. The scene where Alverez grills and probes Meredith is just priceless. All-around, the performances are exceptional and the narrative is intriguing and dialogue is at times smart and well-written. Michael Douglas was terrific and his character, Tom is much more sympathetic and likeable compared to the other characters he has played in Basic Instinct and Fatal Attraction.

Disclosure is raunchy at times (well just one scene), and under a different director it would have perhaps taken a sleazier approach, but thanks to Barry Levinson's direction and style, he has rightly and faithfully kept it in line with the original book; this is smart raunchy - not smutty raunchy and well-written and a well made and satisfying attempt at tackling the issue of sexual harassment. The thrills, the drama and tension are generated not through explicit sex scenes, but through this ongoing battle between two power dynamics of a man & woman, who are both strong, and seeing who gets the upper hand over the other. This is not an erotic thriller/drama film, but thankfully an engrossing and gripping drama, adapted from a book about people using others for sex, in order to get what they want. 

Yet more to it, there is more to this film than just the issue of sexual harassment: it's about power and that holding a higher position infers or implies that one is entitled to use their sexuality to get ahead in this world. 

Barry Levinson hasn't had a great deal of success in the 1990s (no) thanks to the failures of Toys of 1992 and Jimmy Hollywood, as he did in the 1980s with Good Morning, Vietnam and Rain Man, yet here with Disclosure, it felt that for a brief moment, as if things were looking up for him. He also fills the cast with actresses who turn in good to impressive performances & I also liked that the female characters weren't being dumbed down. I was also surprised when I learnt that Levinson would lend himself to a movie with a story and theme such as this: it's not something I'd usually associate him with. & yet, I was impressed with his direction, wherein which he didn't resort to filling the screen with needless sex scenes, which would have taken away from the film & the story. 

Not surprising, however, is that radical feminists have bashed this film and accused Michael Crichton of being sexist and misogynistic, but though the story is fictional, the themes, the issues are as real as they can be and that men are just as much the victims of sexual harassment as women themselves.

Final Verdict:

This is yet another great Levinson effort that joins the ranks of Good Morning, Vietnam, Rain Man and his only major success from the 1990s, but in Disclosure, a film that I thought would be a lurid and unconvincing erotic thriller, turns out to be a very tightly packed & engaging and broad film with a satisfying, and yet resounding conclusion. This could have and might have been a tawdry and sleazy affair - no pun intended - that is approached in such a throwaway & cheap fashion and yet, Levinson has confounded my doubts and all of the concerns I had with it. As a Michael Crichton novel turned movie, I enjoyed this just as much as other books turned movies efforts such as The Pelican Brief, Sphere, The Firm to name.

After many years of avoiding this movie, because I thought it would be too preoccupied with copious amounts of sex scenes and crappy dialogue, I eventually caved in - and thankfully, Disclosure has virtually none of that, and that it turned out to be hugely and very rewarding and satisfying viewing experience. 

With a far more compelling story that is better conceived than Basic Instinct, Disclosure didn't disappoint and not a film I expected it to be, and yet it was still excellent in many respects. 


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