Harassment isn't what's revealed in 'Disclosure'

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The most important thing to know about the new movie "Disclosure" is that it's about as controversial as flossing.

Nobody walks out mad, that's for sure.

What happened?

After all, "Disclosure" is based on the hot-button book on sexual harassment -- in which the harassing boss is a woman. It's supposed to take a new, hard look at an explosive issue. And, if that's not enough to get you inside the theater, you also get to see Demi Moore, uh, act.

Well, there is, as promised, a steamy scene between Moore and Michael Douglas. You get hot. But the movie never gets you bothered.

You can blame Barry Levinson, the director/auteur. He never should have done this movie, but Levinson is in desperate need of a hit. Or maybe you've forgotten his last two efforts -- "Toys" and "Jimmy Hollywood."

The little, personal movies weren't working. Maybe a big, cynical movie would. So, Levinson teamed up with Michael "Jurassic Park" Crichton, whose best-selling novels routinely turn into huge movie hits.

But Levinson chickened out. Instead of a polemic, he made a techno-thriller -- more techno than thrilling, it turns out -- in which he manages to leave the issue of sexual harassment almost completely unexamined. Which is more than you can say of Demi Moore's legs, however.

He gives us a woman villain (also some women heroes, in case you think the movie is anti-women). He gives us a little sex. He gives us some cardboard characters and a wholly unconvincing plot. Sounds like a hit to me.

In "Disclosure," sexual harassment is merely a come-on. It's the barker at the carnival door who waves you in to see the Lobster Boy. Or, in this case, another freak, the Women Boss/Harasser.

Meaning, we get to watch Moore (high-powered exec) force herself on next-in-command Michael Douglas (who must be thankful she wasn't wielding an ice pick) and we're supposed to think we're onto something important.

Levinson goes along with the charade. He says things like the movie will provoke discussion on an important subject. It does provoke discussion of Demi Moore's cleavage. I heard several guys discussing it on the way out.

That's because "Disclosure" is about sexual harassment in the same way that the Roadrunner cartoons are about animal rights.

You want a message? This is as close as the movie comes: Women, though not all women, can be evil. And when they are evil (meaning, they're after a white male's job), they're usually extremely sexy. Less sexy women, though, can help men out. And computers can, too.

Certainly, the techno-toys are the movie's real stars. There's plenty of cyber-talk and a cool trip down virtual reality way.

Here's the premise. You're a white male guy, the most beleaguered subset of the human species. You think you're going to get a promotion. Instead, a woman gets it, because women/blacks get all the jobs. But it's worse than that. This is not just any woman. She's your former lover.

Then, she invites you -- now a happily married man, who keeps his pants zipped these days, thank you -- up to her office and unzips. You fight back, of course, even though the boss looks like Demi Moore. And even though when she unbuttons her dress, there's this Niagara Falls effect that I'll leave to your imagination.

After you toss her aside, she accuses you of sexual harassment, you accuse her right back and the fun begins.

Real sexual harassment is about something completely different, of course. And, in this movie, it turns out that the sex is, as of old, just a plot device. It's got nothing to do with what happens around water coolers in offices across America.

Now, it may be possible to make a movie about women harassing men and have it make a point. There is the Jenny Craig case in which eight men have accused a company run mostly by women of harassing them. One guy says the women talk about his "tight buns." Another is asked to fix the boss' car. The men say they didn't get promotions and were kidded about getting a sex-change operation. They're suing. Sounds more like a movie-of-the-week to me.

"Disclosure" has a different agenda. Demi Moore gets to look quite hot. And Michael Douglas gets to play another poor white guy hammered by lunatic women.

And, not incidentally, Barry Levinson gets to make a buck.

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