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USA 1994
Directed by
David Mamet
90 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


David Mamet adapted this provocatively acerbic account of a fictional college sexual harassment case from his own two-handed, three act stage play and the result is a wide-ranging, engaging and typically verbally-stylized film that may well inspire debate about the director’s agenda (the title refers to a folk story about a man, Ole, and his wife, Anna, who bought acres of swampland, sold it as farmland, then vanished with the proceeds. How the ‘Oleanna swindle’ relates to Mamet’s purpose is not, however, crystal clear).

Largely limited to a single location, the convoluted dialogue is intense, with both leads, William H. Macy as a middle-aged professor and Debra Eisenstadt as Carol, a student who comes to him to discuss why she's failing his course, excellent. For those familiar with Macy’s usual hapless characters this will be an interesting point of contrast.

Cinematographer Andrezej Sekula, whose skilful work contributes to the sense of foreboding calamity, also shot Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction whilst Mamet’s wife, Rebecca Pidgeon, wrote the folksy music to which Mamet contributed lyrics.




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