Victim at the IRS
When is a gesture more than gesture? When is a compliment more than a compliment? If you don't know what I am on about I am on about sexual harassment in the work place, an emotive subject because something innocent can be misconstrued and wreck lives in the process yet at the same time persistent sexual aggression is equally destructive. "Hostile Advances" is a movie which is about sexual harassment and is based on the true story of Kerry Ellison who found herself harassed by a work colleague and let down by a system afraid of the grey area between what is and what isn't harassment. Now it has to be said that "Hostile Advances" is told from the perspective of Kerry Ellison and it makes it clear from her perspective that there was no grey area as it makes out the colleague as obsessed, evil and controlling turning it at times into a bit of a stalker movie. But at the same time it also highlights the difficulties and complexities of sexual harassment cases as well as a system which constantly let down the victim.
Life was good for Kerry Ellison (Rena Sofer), she enjoyed her job at the IRS and was well on the way to a promotion, that is until work colleague Jack Gilcrest (Victor Garber - Sleepless in Seattle) starts to take a liking to her, persistently asking her out and not taking no for an answer. Made to fill threatened Kerry tries to deal with the situation and goes to her boss about Jake's constantly creepy behaviour. It seems it is all over when Jake is transferred but then he returns and it all starts again and with the system letting her down she takes the brave step to take the IRS to court over Jake's behaviour but is met with plenty of archaic chauvinism within the legal system.
"Hostile Advances" is an interesting and at times entertaining movie, I say entertaining because Ellison's story has certainly been adapted to work as a drama. The whole opening has a thriller style as we watch Kerry being stalked by a man in leather gloves and as things play out there are some big dramatic moments, her car not starting which makes her panic as well as a big scene at the flying club where she goes when it gets too much. These things may have happened, I don't know Ellison's story to say, but they are certainly played out for dramatic effect. They along with the rest of the movie are also solely played out from Kerry's perspective with Jake shown as controlling and obsessed rather than someone who was just slightly flirtatious. Again that may be the case but it feels like Jake's level of obsession has been ramped up to make him scary and verging on the psychotic.
But the thing is that whilst it feels to me that "Hostile Advances" has been written to be entertainingly dramatic it still gets across a lot of points. We see how things a man does totally innocently can make things uncomfortable for a woman in the work place. But more significantly we understand that at the time it was incredibly difficult for a woman to press through a claim for sexual harassment as the system was afraid of the grey areas and was still chauvinistic in attitude. As a man it opens your eyes to the difficulties a woman faces, how things can be misconstrued and by having Jake portrayed as almost being psychotic makes sure there is no grey area. But it also does a good job of showing that it never ends, there will always be those who takes sides.
The only thing which lets "Hostile Advances" down is that it has various problems common amongst made for TV movies. Things such as cliche dialogue, thin characters and ordinary camera work makes it grounded in the average at best group but the strength of the story thankfully keeps it there.
What this all boils down to is that "Hostile Advances: The Kerry Ellison Story" is both an interesting and entertaining drama based on the true story of Kerry Ellison, told from her perspective. It manages to keep you engaged in the drama whilst opening your eyes to the difficulties surrounding sexual harassment cases and the grey area which frightens off people.