A two character movie, involving a college professor, John, who is confronted by a female student, Carol, who is failing his course. The two spend a long time talking to each other, during which time John says a few things that can be taken the wrong way. After the night the two spent talking, John is slapped with a sexual harassment accusation by Carol. After more accusations from Carol, John's career as a teacher begins to fall apart. This forces John with a choice on how to handle the situation, and the results make up for a shattering ending to the movie.Written by
Justin Sharp <email@example.com>
David Mamet's script was heavily criticized as sexist. He defended himself against this allegation in (Guardian supplement) (UK) 8 April 2004, pg. 8-9, "'Why can't I show a woman telling lies?'" See more »
When Carol leaves John's office after their second meeting, shouting "Help!", the shadow of the camera covers the door. See more »
There is a version of the movie circulating in Australia, in a series of videos along with other David Mamet films including "A Life in the Theater". This particular copy of the film is timecoded. In that version, after Carol tells John not to call his wife "baby," (thus sending him into a torrent of rage), and he slaps her arm and grabs her, screaming a sexual expletive and raising a chair above her head, the door to the hallway swings open and a number of people stand in the hallway, observing the fight and thus hopelessly damning John. In the version now appearing on The Sundance Channel (10/05), the expletive is unchanged but he never lifts the chair and the door never opens; aside from a final exterior shot of the school, the film ends with Carol (Eisenstadt) having collapsed on the floor of John's office, and John sitting in his chair, his head buried in his hands. See more »
William H. Macy plays a professor, and Debra Eisenstadt plays a student who needs an A in the class she is taking from him. They argue as to why she should or shouldn't get an A. In the course of their arguing, the student finds cause to charge the professor, who is up for tenure, with sexual harassment and takes her case to the tenure committee.
The movie runs about an hour and a half. It was slow going, but as I was about to flip away from it (watching it on cable), I checked how long it had to go, and it was about half-way through. I figured, oh well, there's still some Canadian Club I need to get rid of, and tomorrow's a holiday, so I stuck with it. And I'm glad I did.
It is not a good movie, and maybe not even a very good play. Mamet's direction is ultra-stagy, even more declamatory than live theater would normally allow for, let alone a movie. For about an hour and a half, the actors hurl complete sentences and big chunks of paragraphs at one another.
Are Mamet and the actors really that insensitive to the conventions of film? Not likely. I think he chose that artificial manner in order to distance the audience from the characters and bring the ideas to the foreperhaps in the same vein as Bertolt Brecht's notion of "epic theater".
This is not so much a movie or a play as it is a staged philosophical dialogue. It examines the power relationships between man and woman, teacher and student. When the student comes to the professor to reveal the case she has built against him, it shows how words and deeds in one context can be given a whole different thrust and meaning when used to "build a case". Or are they really that different? Perhaps her case focuses and explicates the real underlying relationship of those words and deeds. Those are the kinds of questions Mamet raises, and I think it is a masterful exploration.
But is it a movie? Well, it is certainly dramatic, if stilted, and the dénoument is devastating. It may not be a good movie, but Mamet knew exactly what he was doing, and I'd watch it again.
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