Oleanna (1994)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Drama  |   Release Date - Nov 4, 1994 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom , United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Frustrated with the inability to pin it down as a film about feminism or American higher education or class differences or any other number of social and political themes, some simply criticized David Mamet's Oleanna as unclear and confused about its own intentions. But it is its grayness that makes Oleanna, just like its source play, such an outstanding film. The film deals with all of those issues, and its ambiguity toward them, like that in our everyday lives, is why it polarizes audiences and sparks so many debates. Boiled down to its basic elements, Oleanna is a power struggle between its two characters, fascinatingly portrayed by William H. Macy and Debra Eisenstadt. At first Macy's character has the power in the relationship, and he wields it carelessly and patronizingly, offering no real answers or help to his fragile and confused student. Unsatisfied with their meeting, Eisenstadt's desperation leads her to seize the power without regard to consequences. It is the careless handling of power and the desperation felt when facing such power, coupled with the claustrophobic setting and trademark Mamet dialogue and pacing that makes watching Oleanna such a emotionally charged and downright maddening experience. Viewers shouldn't expect to walk away with any solid impression of Mamet's personal ideologies, but they can certainly expect to be affected.