Michael Douglas is an executive at a cutting edge tech company and is waiting for the word of his long-awaited promotion. He’s shocked when the position is given to his Demi Moore, an aggressive business woman who also happens to be Douglas’ ex!
Then the big hook in the movie happens during a late night meeting between the two, Moore sexually harasses the happily married Douglas. The next day she plays victim and says he was the predator. This puts Douglas’ reputation, his marriage and his job at risk! Can he somehow prove that he was the innocent party and it was all Demi’s doing?
In the 1990s, Michael Crichton was one hot property. Jurassic Park and Rising Sun became popular Crichton film adaptations. And at the time there were high hopes for the upcoming Congo. It didn’t really pan out that way, but it had some high expectations.
Hollywood was ‘Crichton crazy’ and anxious to get their hands on the screen rights for his newest upcoming novel Disclosure. He would get a cool one million dollars from Warner Bros. for the film rights to it, which they paid for before it was even published. It was believed it potentially could be another box office hit.
And it kind of was. While it’s not really fondly remembered now, Disclosure was a pretty big hit when it was released. It was glossy, had stars Douglas and Moore, promised sex scenes, a socio-topical story, was based on Crichton’s book that became a best-seller and was directed by Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson. Sounds like a natural hit in 1994.
So, why doesn’t it seem like Disclosure is remembered much today? Well, probably because it’s not a very good movie and is one of the strangest high profile studio films that came out of the 1990s.
Douglas seems like a predictable choice to star in this film, with his history of being the put-upon romantic lead with Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct. He was box office gold starring in sexy thrillers where his female lead really turns the screws on him. Moore was a popular star just scoring with Indecent Proposal. That film got the country talking about its hot button premise and was a huge hit, so why not get her for another film that seemed designed to illicit a similar response.
But Disclosure ends up being so oddly executed it becomes more of a head scratcher, than an engaging thriller. The basic story of the gender reversal of a woman sexual harassing a man, that should have been at its core, gets lost in a muddled mess of company mergers, microchip designs, anonymous emails and a trippy virtual reality sequence that looks more suited for a Lawnmower Man film.
Things start fine, with Douglas getting passed over for a promotion and his ex Moore landing the gig. Late one night at the office she puts the moves on him and attempts to get horizontal with the happily married Douglas. He refuses and she gets angry. The next day she accuses him of sexual harassment. He counters saying no it was her and off to the races we go!
Or at least we should have.
With the company trying to protect itself with this big merger that’s about to take place, they side with their new attractive VP. Douglas hires lawyer Roma Maffia to help him get out of this mess.
This ‘he said/she said’ argument boils down to a few scenes of Douglas and Moore sitting at a deposition giving their conflicting versions of what went down in that office. That’s the best part of the movie, where the movie addresses the double standards that go along with accusations of sexual harassment. Much more of that was needed.
The rest of the film…..kind of just floats along with a very humdrum plot that gets very convoluted and gets less and less compelling as it goes along. His sexual harassment claims seem to be settled until Douglas discovers he’s being setup to be fired for incompetence. So, then the story shifts into some bunch of corporate shenanigans. Douglas must try to save his job, Moore secretly sabotages his work, boss Donald Sutherland and his slimy underlings put pressure on Douglas and he’s forced to run around trying to get his team of techs (including Dennis Miller) to get the computers up and running for this upcoming merger.
It all started to become a blur to me and the main starting point – Moore sexually harassing Douglas – got completely lost. Even Douglas’ marital woes that become inflamed from his ‘almost tryst’ with Moore, barely register any drama or emotional stakes for him. I have to mention the very weird dream sequence that Douglas experiences with a…kissy Sutherland. It’s a moment that just adds to the bizarre nature to the whole movie.
I always forget that Levinson directed Disclosure. It has nothing notable in it that would make me see his imprint on it. Granted, originally Milos Forman was originally set to direct it, and when he left over ‘creative differences’ Levinson came in. So maybe there was little time to go over the script and Levinson was more of a ‘hired hand’ on the film. I don’t know
The tech that was cutting edge in 1994 looks hilariously dated today, so there’s some unintended laughs as we watch emails get sent, video calls conducted and that crazy VR scene. Oh boy! The climax with Douglas walking around some VR simulation seems so disconnected to the central story it ends up really confusing.
You mean, a story of a man getting sexually harassed by his attractive female boss….and it ends up in this digital world? Huh? That wasn’t where I would have imagined the story to go!
I don’t think anyone would have predicted the climax to Disclosure would entail Douglas putting on some VR glasses and trying to stop a digital Demi Moore from deleting company files. That’s the thrilling culmination of this sensitive ‘He Said, She Said’ conflict the film is built on? I would never have imagined the story of Disclosure would need the help of ILM to help tell the story.
It’s not much of an ‘erotic thriller’ either. There’s the one scene between Moore and Douglas and it’s really not all that steamy. Then the film starts to morph into a legal thriller (which is probably where all the best drama could have been found in this story), but that ends rather quickly and then settles into some wannabe hi-tech thriller with Douglas winning his corporate kudos, perfecting their new sacred CD-ROM hardware and saving the company.
Disclosure is a very strange movie. You read the synopsis, see the poster and the cast, the talent involved and get an idea of what kind of movie you’re about to watch. And everything begins to line up with that picture for the first thirty or so minutes.
But then it’s as if they didn’t know what else to do with the story or interesting places to take it and it just sort of gives up and settles into some dull corporate backstabbing to rather than the core premise. The one that got audiences interested in seeing this story in the first place.
It’s a very, very odd movie. No wonder Disclosure doesn’t get talked about much today.