Sunday 20 May 2018

Movie Review: Disclosure (1994)

A drama about sexual harassment and dirty power politics in an office setting, Disclosure presents a compelling story in a sleek package, despite rampant over-the-top tendencies.

In Seattle, Tom Sanders (Michael Douglas) is happily married to lawyer Susan (Caroline Goodall), and expected to be promoted to Vice President at a high-tech company about to yield a financial windfall through a merger. Tom receives news that the company's latest groundbreaking hardware device is experiencing significant quality control issues. He is then shocked to learn that President Bob Garvin (Donald Sutherland) has selected outsider Meredith Johnson (Demi Moore) for the VP job.

Meredith and Tom share a history as passionate lovers. Now she invites him to her office for an after-hours meeting and aggressively initiates sexual contact, which he resists. The next morning Meredith accuses Tom of sexual harassment. He starts receiving anonymous emails from "A Friend" encouraging him to fight back. Tom connects with lawyer Catherine Alvarez (Roma Maffia) and launches a harassment claim of his own. The resulting power struggle rocks the company and threatens Tom's career.

Directed by Barry Levinson and based on a Michael Crichton book, Disclosure is both tawdry and relevant. The film is not far from glossy magazine trash, where all characters believe themselves to be master manipulators and the sets are stylish over-representations of avant garde architecture masterpieces. Yet Disclosure fearlessly dives into the minefield of gender issues in the workplace, tackling the imbalance between men and women and covering all the territory from light pats on the bum to shoulder rubs and unwanted blowjobs in locked offices.

The plot spares no one, and all the characters have something to answer for. Meredith is a maneater, but all she can be accused of is behaving like men have done for ages. Tom Sanders is her principal victim, but he is less than honest with his wife and less than innocent in his treatment of his assistant. Bob Garvin is the master chess player, playing the game several moves ahead of everyone else, and with sickening oiliness. Several other office types, from veteran brown-nosers to young and insecure techies, bring Disclosure's world to life.

The plot does not even stop at the sexual battlefield. The film is also about the high profit, high risk, cut throat world of business mergers, and careers in the fast-paced technology industry. Levinson manages to cram in an exploration of the risks of offshore manufacturing in far-flung low-cost locales (Malaysia, in this case) and the emerging field of virtual reality.

Of course, all the plot elements come crashing together in a less-than-convincing finale filled with the usual assortment of losers licking wounds of various severities and winners who will carry forth into the next sordid campaign. Disclosure takes no prisoners, but dishes out plenty of guilty pleasure.

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1 comment:

  1. this is one of my favourites from 1994. underrated and I was surprised to see how gripping this film was. Barry Levinson hasn't had much succeess during the 1990s, yet he is still one of my favourite directors and this is a gem of his.


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