Tuesday, March 04, 2008


From the Vault: Disclosure

When people ask about Disclosure and I tell them the climax involves a virtual reality file room, they look puzzled and inevitably say, "You're kidding." If only I were making this up.

Even worse, that climactic twist merely serves as the coup de grace of the countless unintentionally comic moments of this extremely silly adaptation of the Michael Crichton best seller about sexual harassment.

In the tradition of his work in Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct and Falling Down, Michael Douglas stars as yet another persecuted heel, only this time his characters acts even more like an irresponsible twit than usual.

Douglas plays Tom Sanders, an executive at DigiCom, a Seattle high-tech computer firm who finds that an ex-girlfriend, Meredith Johnson (Demi Moore) has been given the promotion he feels he deserves. On her first day on the job, Meredith invites Tom to her office for an after-hours drink and brain-storming session.

Once there, Tom realizes Meredith isn't interested in his mind but wants to engage in some carnal nostalgia. At first, Tom seems powerless to resist, despite his happy marriage to a lawyer (Caroline Goodall) and two children. After repeated shouts of "No," Tom gets away and Meredith vows corporate vengeance.

When Tom learns Meredith has lied to their boss (played by an entertaining Donald Sutherland) and claims that Tom came on to her, Tom forces her hand by filing a sexual harassment suit of his own.

The rest of the film revolves around the legal and corporate maneuvering between both sides, all of which takes place in the space of a single work week. Thanks to Barry Levinson's draggy pacing, it seems more like an eternity.

The few moments of wit in Paul Attanasio's script and provided by the supporting players make this would-be topical exercise watchable, but too often the dialogue drifts into platitudes. It's a disappointment from the screenwriter who gave us the sharp and witty Quiz Show.

When Tom muses to his wife that he fears becoming another "ghost with a resume," you realize that lines that might work as prose sink like a stone when they come out of the mouth of an actor like Douglas.

In fact, Douglas ends up being the film's biggest negative. His intrinsic unlikability as an actor makes Tom a shrill buffoon. Despite the fact that Tom's right, you still want to see him kicked around a bit.

Moore does OK by her part, bringing the necessary mix of vivaciousness and venom to Meredith, but she's as much a cartoon as Douglas' character. Their names should be Tom and Jerry instead of Tom and Meredith.

No moment makes more clear how wrong this movie goes than the virtual reality sequence. Leaving aside the fact that a virtual reality file room defeats the purpose of having a database at your fingertips and makes the information age more cumbersome not less, the sequence evokes laughs by its ridiculous setup.

Tom breaks into the hotel room of the CEO of a company planning to merge with DigiCom, where the virtual file room prototype has been assembled for the corporate bigwig to play with. As Tom nervously searches for the papers he needs, Meredith logs on at the office and becomes represented by Demi Moore's head on a Lawnmower Man-type graphic body. It looks even sillier than it sounds.

Sexual harassment could be a fascinating topic for a movie, but Disclosure is not that film. At times it looks as if it might take a detour into satire or suspense, but both avenues prove to be dead ends.

In the end, the virtual reality subplot seems an apt metaphor for this misfire. Occasionally you get the sensation of being in on the action but when you remove the goggles, you find yourself back in the real world.

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That virtual reality thing is in the book too, and as a programmer, I loved it. Great idea. As for the movie, it's pure bullshit but I found it a good time waster. But Demi Moore is pathetically bad casting. Who wouldn't want to be sexually harassed by crooked nipple fake tits? (And yes, I got booted off my last website because I accurately said her boob job was crooked.) They needed to cast Roseanne as the boss. Then the movie would have given guys a taste of what women have to deal with with some balding middle age fuckwad with a paunch says something sexual to them.
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