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Film / Disclosure

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"Sex is power."

Disclosure is a 1994 thriller film, directed by Barry Levinson and based on a novel by Michael Crichton. The main stars were Michael Douglas and Demi Moore.

Tom Sanders (Douglas) is a software executive who has a perfect life. That is until it is ruined upon the arrival of his former girlfriend, Meredith Johnson (Moore). Meredith happens to be his new boss and a lover from a long time ago. She decides its an opportunity to rekindle their sexual relationship and is rather aggressive about it. Since he considers himself happily married he refuses.

The following day, Meredith files charges of sexual harassment against him. Nobody believes in his innocence, neither his family, nor his colleagues. His only hope is his new attorney Catherine Alvarez (Roma Maffia), who specializes in sexual harassment cases where men are the victims. He has little problem of settling out of court, only to learn the company has been looking for a scapegoat for some recent problems with the quality of their products. With all the attention to his name, it seems Tom has just volunteered for the job.

Tropes included:

  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Meredith is blonde in the novel, but she has brown hair in the film.
  • Adaptation Name Change:
    • Caroline Alvarez was originally named Louise Fernandez in the novel.
    • The drive codenamed "Twinkle" in the novel is changed to "Arcamax" in the film.
  • All Men Are Perverts / A Man Is Always Eager: Tom's lawyer warns him that a jury is going to find it hard to believe that "you were alone in a room with Miss Teen New Mexico, and you're the one who said 'no'", especially in light of the fact that she's also his ex-girlfriend. It seems incomprehensible to anyone that Tom could have moved on, be Happily Married, and despite acknowledging that Meredith is very attractive, have no lingering sexual or romantic feelings for her.
  • An Aesop: "The only thing you have proven is that a woman in power can be every bit as abusive as a man."
    • Things are almost never what they seem to be.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: "Did it ever occur to you, Meredith, that maybe I set you up?"
  • Beauty Is Bad: Meredith.
  • Betty and Veronica: Tom Sanders' wife and Meredith respectively.
  • Clear My Name: The basis of the plot.
  • Clothing Reflects Personality: Meredith favors all-black outfits that are a little too short and tight to be completely workplace-appropriate. On the other hand, Susan favors earth-toned outfits that are softer and more flowing while still being professional.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Meredith, Arthur Kahn and Phil Blackburn. A much more clear case from the book. It's not 100 percent confirmed, but very much implied that Phil was helping Meredith from the very beginning to the very end about every unlawful act she did in the story. Garvin to a lesser extent (it's pretty much clear he had no idea about Meredith's deceptions).
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Tom Sanders, sort of.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Tom's actions, demeanor, and treatment after the incident in Meredith's office echo what female victims have been subjected to—he takes a shower afterwards, he has nightmares, is uncomfortable when discussing the incident, his and Meredith's prior relationship is used against him, him going to her office late at night is regarded as expectation of or consent to sexual activity.
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Tom walks by the gym at exactly the right time to hear Meredith and Phil going over their plan to paint him over as the Scapegoat.
  • False Rape Accusation: Meredith claims that Tom assaulted her. Indeed, had the roles been reversed, she could very well have gone to the police and filed a complaint. It's all a ploy to try to get him fired from Digicom so she can prevent him from tracing the changes she made on the production line and frame for it.
  • Femme Fatale: Meredith. She's even introduced through the classic "leg shot", no less!
  • Film Noir: While the crimes in the film include corporate corruption (as well as an immoral act in the form of sexual harassment), the content tropes of the style are present in full force—particularly the Femme Fatale, the plot involving false accusations, the series of twists where nothing is as it seems, and the male "sap" set up to take the fall.
  • Frame-Up: Meredith frames Tom with sexual harassment after he ultimately refuses her advancements. To say the least she didn't care whatsoever, because she was just looking for an excuse to get him kicked out of Digicom to successfully frame him again with her changes on the production line, which is actually his responsibility.
  • Heel Realization: After his initial resistance to Meredith's aggressive sexual advances, Tom is overcome with lust and begins making out with her and ripping her clothes off. But when he sees his face reflected in a pane of glass, he realizes what he's doing and stops himself before having sex with Meredith.
  • Kicked Upstairs: Tom is offered an identical position at the company's Texas office as a means of calming the furor over the lawsuit. He refuses—aside from refusing to be punished when he hasn't done anything wrong, he also knows that the Texas office is due to be closed soon.
  • Meaningful Name: The domineering, sex-hungry female boss is named Meredith Johnson.
  • Not Helping Your Case: During the second meeting, Catherine Alvarez listens to a tape of Meredith forcing herself on an obviously resistant Tom and tells Meredith that the only thing this proves is that a woman in power can be abusive as a man. Meredith's response is to own being a sexually aggressive woman and saying she likes it. Proclaiming yourself as a sexually aggressive person while in a meeting about sexual harassment allegations toward yourself is probably not the best thing to do...
  • Out-Gambitted: Hinted at the very end while Tom is seeing Meredith off. He asks whether it ever occurred to Meredith if this all might have been him setting her up. Given how we've seen everything play out, there is some doubt on the subject, but maybe...
  • Psycho Ex-Girlfriend: Meredith. Subverted in that while we're supposed to believe she's this, she actually has entirely different motives. But her overall personality is still a pretty reasonable example.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Stephanie Kaplan, who most of the movie seems to not want to get involved in the scandal, but ultimately turns out to be Tom's mysterious "friend". As such, when she is promoted to VP in Meredith's place, Tom is perfectly okay with it.
  • Shower of Angst: Tom after his encounter with Meredith. Not wanting to tell his wife what happened, he passes it off as simply feeling "shitty" after a bad day (he was passed over for a promotion).
  • Sleeping Their Way to the Top: Meredith is accused of having gotten where she is in this manner, as opposed to Kaplan, who worked hard and repeatedly got looked over.
  • Sleeping with the Boss: Plays the "female boss, male employee" version of this for all the drama it can. Meredith Johnson, the ex and new boss of Tom Sanders, tries to restart their relationship, but Tom doesn't want to go through with it due to him being married now. Meredith then out-and-out tries to rape him, forcing him to fight her off. The plot gets kicked off when she files charges of sexual harassment against him. It's also implied that she may have very well slept with Garvin.
    • When Tom's lawyer investigates Meredith, she finds that several of her male subordinates have abruptly and inexplicably quit, heavily implying that Tom is not the first nor only employee she's made unwanted advances to.
  • Straw Feminist: An interesting In-Universe spin on the trope. When Tom asks a female co-worker if she's on Meredith's side, the woman replies that she worked her tail off to get where she is—as opposed to Meredith, who the co-worker clearly views as having used sexual manipulation to rise to the top, wrapped in feminist trappings. As such, the answer is "no". Stephanie Kaplan later implies she feels the same way.
  • Twist Ending: Turns out the whole "sexual harassment" scandal, however it turned out, was just to put doubt in the minds of everyone when the problems with the new software would be revealed... so Tom could then serve as a convenient scapegoat. To put it short, she sexually harassed him to have a legit to cause of action to falsely accuse him in hopes of having him fired from the company to prevent him from tracing the changes she made on the production line.
  • The Unfair Sex: Examined like mad. The second and third acts of the movie deal with this on behalf of both genders.
  • Unusual User Interface: The Production team has ginned up a prototype virtual reality system that can be used to access all of Digicom's files, called the Corridor. It's a headset and gloves worn by a user on an omni-directional treadmill who is constantly scanned by multiple laser beams. The user can walk around in an ornate room full of filing cabinets and open any one (by physically moving their hands) to access the files within. They can also ask a helper program, which manifests as an angel, to assist them. Any user accessing the files from a standard computer will also appear in the VR space, as a basic human wireframe with a 2D photo of themselves as their "head." Notably, they make it clear that it's not intended for the consumer market and was just made to demonstrate the potential of VR systems. Naturally, after being extensively shown off in the first act, it plays an important role in the third act.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Meredith has one when Tom turns the tables on her and manages to get her fired for her involvement in the change of the quality control specifications at the Malaysian plant manufacturing Digi Com's new advanced CD-ROM drive.
  • Yandere: Meredith appears to be this at one point, but like everything else, it's an act. She already planned on getting rid of him from the beginning, to blame him for the changes on the production line. Otherwise, her general behavior still seems to mostly fit this.