Wherever you go in America today, you are in a war zone. The battle lines between men and women have been drawn, and there is a lack of trust on both sides. Class differences put people on edge, and there are few talking points. The generation gap between middleagers and twentysomethings seems increasingly unbridgeable. And everyone seems to be facing imminent attack from devotees of political correctness.
All of these conflicts are brought to the fore in the riveting and thought-provoking new movie Oleanna. It is based on Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Mamet's 1992 play. William H. Macy and Debra Eisenstadt star in this emotional and high octane drama.
Carol is a failing student who has come to the office of John, her middle-aged education professor, to discuss her low grade. She claims to have not understood the course or the text he wrote for it. Under pressure to negotiate a deal for a new house, John tries to assuage her by talking about his feelings of intellectual inadequacy when he was young. Interrupted again and again by phone calls on the real estate deal, the professor offers his critique of higher education as "warehousing the young." Increasingly agitated, he tells Carol an off-color story, briefly touches her shoulder, and offers to change her grade if she'll meet with him privately to work through the course.
The next time they are together, the professor is on the defensive. Carol has lodged charges against him to the faculty committee that has provisionally granted him tenure. She has accused him of sexual harassment, elitism, and telling pornographic tales. And in a further meeting, John learns that Carol has slapped a lawsuit on him for attempted rape.
Oleanna is a film that will arouse strong feelings within you as you watch these two characters attack each other and switch roles. Mamet skillfully portrays the lust for power that lies behind the confrontations waged in the name of gender, class, age, and political correctness.
The scary and shattering finale of Oleanna shows how, tragically, violence remains the answer of choice for so many impasses in today's society.