Oleanna

"Excellent"

Oleanna Review


Filmmakers rarely tackle sensitive, controversial subjects. Most of the projects that get kudos (and Oscars) for taking on tough issues are obvious attempts to exploit controversies that have been settled, and in which the politically-correct opinion has pretty much won the day, like the liability of tobacco companies (The Insider).

This is not true, however, of David Mamet's Oleanna, which fearlessly addressed the issues of sexual harassment with the subtlety of a slap in the face. Oleanna was first a play that made theater audiences upset and angry before it became a movie that died at the box office, probably killed by its political content. Opinions have differed about the play/film's effectiveness. This reviewer felt that the film tried a little too hard to make the audience squirm -- but it also forced me to think.

There are two characters, a university professor (William H. Macy) and a female student, Carol (Debra Eisenstadt). All action takes place in his office, beginning when she comes to see him about a failing grade. He does not make a pass, but drones on in that self-indulgent, conceited, pseudo-intellectual manner that college professors affect, while Carol becomes more and more confused by his monologue. At the end, he makes a slightly obscene joke and touches her shoulder in a way that she subsequently misconstrues as suggestive. In this, she is motivated by a never-identified "group" (presumably feminists or ACLU) that convince her to bring charges against him, threatening to destroy his job, his marriage, and his tenure.

Oleanna seems to me to be basically one-sided -- Carol's grievance is portrayed as manufactured, and her harassment charges are an opportunistic attempt to steal the academic success she cannot earn. At the very least, the film makes the serious (and very unpopular) point that the ambiguous definitions of sexual harassment, mostly written into law in the 1980s, have empowered feminists to destroy careers without proving that harassment ever took place. Thus, the controversy.

However, the professor is a jerk who seems oblivious of his power over his students' futures, and Mamet's portrayal of the prototypical male academic is so negative (and I'm sorry to say, accurate) that it is not surprising if both genders were offended. Probably they had never seen a movie without a hero (or heroine) before. Personally, I don't find most university professors any more or less admirable than whiny, litigious losers like Carol, so the fact that there is no admirable character in the film doesn't bother me.

Both actors are good, Mamet's direction is good, and the script deserves credit for actually daring to make the audience mad. That takes guts. However, if you're looking for a fun, or even an uplifting, film to rent this weekend, Oleanna is not that film.

Hands off the merchandise.



Oleanna

Facts and Figures

Run time: 89 mins

In Theaters: Friday 4th November 1994

Distributed by: Hallmark Entertainment

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 56%
Fresh: 9 Rotten: 7

IMDB: 6.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: William H. Macy as John, as Carol

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Free State of Jones Movie Review

Free State of Jones Movie Review

Since its true story is still so timely after some 150 years, we can forgive...

Deepwater Horizon Movie Review

Deepwater Horizon Movie Review

This reunion of actor Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg feels like a natural successor...

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Movie Review

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Movie Review

Ransom Riggs' bestselling novel is appropriately adapted into a movie by Tim Burton, the gothic...

Get Back Movie Review

Get Back Movie Review

Roger Appleton's documentary 'Get Back' looks into the music scene that come out of Liverpool....

Imperium Movie Review

Imperium Movie Review

First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

Like a 10-years-later follow-up to 28 Days Later, this small British thriller takes a refreshingly...

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

Advertisement
Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high...

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which...

Blair Witch Movie Review

Blair Witch Movie Review

It's been 17 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the cinema and created...

Anthropoid Movie Review

Anthropoid Movie Review

Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

From Laika (The Boxtrolls), this is one of the most beautiful, sophisticated animated films in...

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers another fiercely intelligent, engaging story that maintains high suspense while...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.