BAD EDUCATION – Review by Susan Granger
Last week, the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted to consider ‘streaming’ films for Oscar contention if they’d originally planned a theatrical release. That’s good news for Hugh Jackman, Allison Janney and Ray Romano, who deliver compelling performances in this engaging docudrama.
Based on a real embezzlement scheme that stunned suburban Roslyn, Long Island in 2004, it’s as timely as last year’s college admissions scandal.
School superintendant Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman) is a devoted educator, a people-pleaser who is as adept at encouraging students as he is at defusing argumentative parents. His trusted assistant is Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney). They’re supported by school board president Bob Spicer (Ray Romano), a local realtor who basks in Roslyn’s soaring property values.
Determined that Roslyn’s status rise above its competing towns of Syosset and Jerico, Frank initiates an expensive “sky-bridge” renovation, agreeing to an interview by Rachel Bhargava (Geraldine Viswanathan), a reporter on the school newspaper.
After Frank encourages her not to simply write a “puff piece,” Rachel starts researching the school’s budget. She soon discovers many financial irregularities and discrepancies. Using the school’s credit card, Pam Gluckin has been casually financing her family’s home renovation and personal expenses, while Frank Tassone has been bankrolling his entire lifestyle.
Unbeknownst to Roslyn’s citizens, poignantly vain Frank leads a double life. In Manhattan, he has an Upper East Side apartment with a longtime partner (Stephen Spinella) whom he deceives in Las Vegas with a former student (Rafael Casal) now working as a bartender/dancer.
Adapted from Robert Kolker’s New York magazine article The Bad Superintendent by former Roslyn student Mike Makowsky, who witnessed the nightmare firsthand, it’s astutely directed by Cory Finley (Thoroughbreds).
Perceptively acing a diabolically complicated character, Hugh Jackman oozes charismatic charm as the slick yet sinister administrator, a perfect counterpart to Allison Janney’s brash budget director.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Bad Education” is an insidiously enticing 8, tracing an infamous $11.3 million theft from taxpayers.