Oleanna [1994]

David Mamet's hot-button stage work comes to the screen, with Mamet at the directing helm and all of the play's provocations intact. It's a sinister two-hander, with William H. Macy as a smug college professor and Debra Eisenstadt as a desperate student who's struggling in his class. When the story moves to its second act, the twin specters of sexual harassment and political correctness are raised, forcing us to reassess the argument we've been watching. Brilliantly tooled as a stage workout, Oleanna loses something in its transfer to the screen, although it is always bracing to see Macy create one of his meticulous portraits of a less-than-heroic man. Mamet's ear for the absurdities of late-twentieth-century jargon (especially of the politicized variety) is mercilessly accurate, and in this ticked-off look at the intricacies of a power play, he gives you an earful. --Robert Horton

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