BAD EDUCATION – Review by Susan Granger

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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.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.