Tom (Michael Douglas), a devoted husband and father, has spent years working his way up the corporate ladder at a technology company, and is expecting to be promoted as part of an upcoming merger. However, instead his boss Bob (Donald Sutherland) brings in new blood for the role, in the form of Tom’s ex-girlfriend Meredith (Demi Moore). Meredith summons Tom for a suspicious evening meeting accompanied by wine and shoulder massages, during which she attempts to seduce him. After initially reciprocating, Tom eventually turns her down and flees, telling no-one and hiding the scratches on his torso. Upon arriving at work the next day Tom discovers Meredith has vengefully accused him of sexual harassment, and Tom must either prove his innocence or be forced out of the company.
Strap in folks, this one’s a ride. Disclosure is not a good film. I’m reviewing it here because it’s written by Michael Crichton but, frankly, even if I didn’t have to review it I’d be feeling pretty compelled to tell the world about it. I’ll save you some scrolling and let you know that this doesn’t have a high points score, but dammit it’s got a Choose Film rating. Watch this film. Experience it. Preferably before reading the rest of this review or finding out anything else about the plot. I’m going to discuss the story developments within this review, because frankly for Disclosure I can’t not, but I need you to stop reading this and go watch it now. Done? No? Fine, but you’re denying yourself a truly wonderful experience.
Disclosure crossed my path because the podcast How Did This Get Made? covered it with Nick Kroll after he wrote an episode of Big Mouth in homage to it but, when I heard Crichton was behind it I bailed on the podcast episode and season 3 of Big Mouth until I’d seen the film. I’ve still yet to listen to the podcast, but the Big Mouth episode is fun (they stage a school production of Disclosure, which is something very wrong that should not be done) and I’ll be circling back around to the podcast episode just as soon as I post this review. Disclosure is billed as an erotic thriller. The DVD cover, which I purchased second-hand for 50p and felt very seedy in doing so, features Demi Moore and Michael Douglas in a state of potential coitus, her hands holding his upon her rear as they kiss passionately. The tagline is “Sex is power.” This film ain’t messing around. You put in the DVD and gird your expectations in tandem with your loins. So it might come as something of a surprise when the one and only scene that comes close to being erotic in nature, the scene that the cover image is from, is a scene in which Demi Moore’s Meredith attempts to rape Michael Douglas’ Tom. A scene in which she makes a very forceful and aggressive sexual move onto him, to which he says “No” multiple times. It becomes a relevant plot point just how many times he denies her intentions. Granted, after the many utterances to the negative, something inside Tom does snap and he rips off Meredith’s underwear and it certainly looks like he’s intending to complete their transaction, but he sees himself in a mirror and calls it off. So the scene ends with no sex, thankfully, and Tom heads home to his wife and children with impossibly distinct fingernail scratches on his chest.
The next hour of the film is a court case. It’s a drama, a courtroom drama, determining the events of this fateful meeting between Tom and Meredith. Tom’s character is called into play as a lecherous misogynist known for patting his female co-workers on the backside. Tom does some detective work, hires a lawyer based on anonymous emails he receives, signed “A. Friend”. Tom and Meredith’s company, headed up by Donald Sutherland and with Dylan Baker in I think the HR-esque role, side with Meredith, stating she is the key to the upcoming merger, and losing her at this critical stage, despite the fact that she was hired just 24 hours ago, would be devastating for the future of the company. Bear in mind that the court case is being handled in a small office, and needs to be dealt with before the end of the week, to avoid any overlap with the merger. I’m certain that’s not how court cases work, but we’re just gonna go ahead and roll with this.
Once the case is resolved – I’ll leave out some of the non-essential details because again, you should absolutely see this movie and I know none of you listened to me earlier – but it turns out the harassment case is not the crux of the film! It’s the B-plot! Everything we’ve seen so far, and by this point we’re maybe two-thirds of the way through the film, has all been foreplay for the merger machinations. Sutherland, Baker, Moore, they’ve all been in cahoots to get rid of Michael Douglas! There’s a production issue with whatever 90s tech garbage this company is producing and it’s all fully Meredith’s fault, but she’s setting up Tom to take the fall, and the court case has been a distraction the whole damn time! It’s incredible. Tom gets wind of this, overhearing a meeting between Dylan Baker and Demi Moore on a stairmaster – yep – and he goes digging for files in the company system, but his network privileges have been revoked. This is where you gotta stay with me, dear readers, this is what we’ve been waiting for.
Tom knows there’s a means of accessing the company network through a terminal that’s been set up as a demonstration for potential clients, and is currently in their hotel room. The only problem is, it uses their new fancy virtual reality network exploration system. That’s right, Michael Douglas has to enter a virtual reality system – an early 90s virtual reality system, at that – to find incriminating video footage of Demi Moore making risky business decisions. If you’ve seen the “Jesus wept!” episode of Community, which absolutely has to be a parody of this scene, you’ll have some idea of what we’re dealing with. It’s ancient Greek architecture. It’s terrible CGI. It’s a cardboard cut-out of Demi Moore floating through the world, hunting Michael Douglas down like she’s Michael frickin’ Myers. Douglas appears as a 3-dimensional real-world version of himself, but Moore is flat, inexpressive, and terrifying. I cannot properly express the utter glee I experienced whilst watching this marvel of cinema. It’s amazing. We see Moore sat at her computer terminal, accessing, moving and deleting files at the standard speed at which these tasks could be completed in 1994, but her in-computer avatar moves glacially, like she’s using Windows ME. My wife did not watch this film with me, she’s far better at decision making than I am, but after the film I had no choice but to sit her down, skip back a few chapters and just let her experience the glory of this sequence.
So the plot and the depiction of technology is cuckoo-bananas, but what about the film as a whole? Well, in a 2020s, post-#MeToo world, this ain’t the kind of film people should be looking to for social advice. The whole concept revolves around not believing women, they’re out to get you, don’t trust them or they’ll rip apart your entire family and career. You might think that the fact Meredith is initially promoted over Tom might be a step forward against sexism in the workplace, if it weren’t for Donald Sutherland’s Bob making a speech in which he expressly announces she is only being promoted because she is a woman, and of course later it’s revealed it’s all been to get Tom to leave. And in the scene where Meredith gets promoted there’s a conversation between Tom’s male team members (including Dennis Miller and Donal Logue) that features lines like “seen more ass than a rental car” and “great rack; nipples like pencil erasers.” Also, Demi Moore gets the classic sexy-lady intro where the camera starts at her bare ankles and takes a not inconsiderable time getting to her face. Moore is legitimately fantastic in the whole film, especially the court case scenes, and whilst I’ve never really bought Michael Douglas as an attractive male lead, especially not in the amount of erotic thrillers he’s starred in, he’s still great here too.
Oh, I completely forgot, there’s a bit where Tom has a nightmare about Bob – who, let’s not forget, is played by Donald Sutherland, and is absolutely killing it in this film, I love Sutherland villain roles – coming onto him in the elevator the day after the meeting with Meredith. It’s like Tom has finally seen the light on how women might feel in a male-oriented business environment. Is a lot of time spent on this? No, absolutely not, don’t be so ridiculous. Instead Tom has a breakdown speech about how sexual harassment is about power, something he never had. Except for the part where he’s slapping his secretary’s butt with his clipboard.
Double oh, that bit earlier where Tom was getting secret messages signed “A. Friend”? Sounds like a fairly basic pseudonym one might use to sound like they’re on your side, right? It’d be utterly preposterous if the messages were both trying to help, but also coming from someone named, for instance, Arthur Friend, right? If the name “A. Friend” didn’t signify that the messages were being sent by someone acting with your best intentions at heart, but instead were sent by someone who, whilst actually acting in the capacity of a friend, also happened to coincidentally be called A. Friend? Someone not directly involved in the plot, but who one of the other friendly characters had contacted to send messages from their account, pureply because their first initial and surname acted as the most obvious, least subtle codename in the history of espionage? That’d just be the most insane screenwriting turn of all time, RIGHT?
On a positive note, the line “That’s like a duck taking a lateral move to à l’orange” is something I’m desperately trying to work into everyday conversation. I feel like I’ve got more chance with that then I do with “You stick your dick in my mouth and then you get an attack of morality?” So is this a good film? No, but you should watch it, laugh at it, and ignore any kind of moral lessons the film tries to impart. Wait, Barry Levinson directed this? Holy Hell.
Choose Film 4/10