Roger Ebert, whose review of the film is primarily about the off-Broadway production he saw over a year earlier, was "astonished" to report that Oleanna was not a very good film, characterizing it as awkward and lacking in "fire and passion". In his review of the film, Ebert expressed his feelings about the original play:
"Experiencing David Mamet's play "Oleanna" on the stage was one of the most stimulating experiences I've had in a theater. In two acts, he succeeded in enraging all of the audience - the women with the first act, the men with the second. I recall loud arguments breaking out during the intermission and after the play, as the audience spilled out of an off-Broadway theater all worked up over its portrait of . . . sexual harassment? Or was it self-righteous Political Correctness?"