The evil one must die


Directed by Barry Levinson
Written by Paul Attanasio (based on the novel by Michael Crichton)
Starring Demi Moore and Michael Douglas
Reviewed by Karen Fletcher

Backlash films certainly get the blood boiling, but they are also evidence that feminist arguments have penetrated deep into US (and Australian) culture. For this reason, Disclosure can bring a perverse satisfaction to the feminist viewer. Behind the techno bells and whistles (and a pretty slick script, I have to admit) this film is a flimsy reply to feminist analyses of sex and power at work. If only we had this big a budget!

Meredith Johnson (Demi Moore) is a cardboard cut-out of a woman with nothing in her fridge but a bottle of champagne and nothing in her heart but a lust for corporate domination. Tom Sanders (Michael Douglas — the pin-up boy for the most regressive wing of the men's movement) is a red-blooded family man who once lived with Meredith but traded her in for another cardboard cut-out, his wife Susan (Caroline Goodall), a woman who knows how to keep her refrigerator stocked.

Those familiar with the backlash genre will already know the end of the story — Meredith gets hers — less bloodily than Glenn Close's demise in Fatal Attraction, or Madonna's final exit from Body of Evidence — but the evil one is dealt with severely.

In a supposed "twist" on the usual sexual harassment scenario, Meredith (recently promoted to vice-president, over Tom) lures her unsuspecting subordinate into her office for a reprise of their erstwhile, by all accounts steamy, relationship. Spurned by her sex-toy turned father of the year, she gives him a tongue lashing ("... having a family — that makes you stupid") and, next morning, cries sexual harassment. Tom seeks truth, justice and the American way through the legal system and, as in all good Hollywood blockbusters, it is dispensed. Then he goes to the shareholders, and Democracy is served, Truth is told and Meredith gets hers.

I got entertainment value from the liberally sprinkled nods to irrefutable feminist observations, a garnish obviously designed to try to get female audiences on side, and from some fun virtual reality sequences. The mobile phones, email messages and computer conferences were cleverly meshed with the story and will no doubt add to the film's value as a historical curio in the year 2020.

I believe a woman can be as manipulative, power-hungry, violent and deceitful as the next person — given the right circumstances (and the corporate jungle provides pretty conducive circumstances), but Disclosure is not a story about real people. It is a wannabe parable of our times and, as such, it is a poisonous lie.