Bad Education (2019)
Director: Cory Finley
Screenwriter: Mike Makowsky
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Ray Romano, Allison Janney, Rafael Casal, Geraldine Viswanathan
Based on the true story of the biggest financial embezzlement scandal within the American school system, Bad Education follows Superintendent Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman) as he discovers his close friend and long time colleague Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney) has been stealing thousands of dollars of tax payers’ money to fund her elaborate lifestyle.
Frank Tassone was an icon in the New York Roslyn school district, famous for his ability to get to know each and every one of his students and often reportedly having lunch in the school cafeteria among them. His aim was to make the Roslyn district the number one schooling facility in the United States, and having already achieved 4th place he was well on his way to being remembered as an all time great in the faculties of America.
Bad Education highlights the complexity of Tussone’s life and encourages questions from the start. Although the extent of his lies may not be clear from the beginning, the elaborate story he fabricates about his wife who died tragically, matched with his affair with ex-student Kyle Contreras (Rafael Casal), all lead to raised eyebrows and a distrust of the character. As the plot unfolds, more details of Frank Tussone’s life become apparent, and friends and colleagues catch wind of his self indulgent lifestyle, from his regular facelifts and expensive trips to Europe, encouraging them to investigate him under the same grounds as Gluckin.
Based on the New York magazine article written by Robert Kolker, Bad Education is a powerful film that highlights how easy it is for this nature of crime to take place, and hits all the right punches at all the right moments to help you understand the motives of the character. It is edge of the seat movie going that deserves to be celebrated.
Jackman gives a standout performance as Tussone in a role that leans far away from his usual output. His characteristics as the scheming, high powered superintendent are ones to be remembered. Strength in the supporting cast comes from Oscar-winner Allison Janney (I, Tonya), as well as Ray Romano (The Irishman) and Geraldine Viswanathan (Blockers), who each bring something individual and captivating to the film.
Cory Finley’s direction and Mike Makowsky’s writing give the story powerful emotion and empathy for characters who ultimately don’t deserve it. They keep the information hidden to leave you on the edge of your seat without giving too much away until it’s needed. You will find yourself questioning whether or not you like or trust these characters because they have fallen victim to a public service system that holds no prisoners.
With outstanding performances from the entire cast and a compelling, truly shocking true-to-life plot that maintains engagement throughout, Bad Education will leave you gasping out loud.