BAD EDUCATION – Review by Martha K Baker

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Bad Education passes every test.

Bad Education tells well the true story of a bad principal. Frank Tassone is one of those principals who knows each student’s name — and probably what his history project is or what sport she plays. He is compassionate, considerate, competent. He also harbors a secret worth millions.

Bad Education takes place on Long Island in Roslyn, New York. The high school competes with neighboring high schools for how many grads are accepted to up-scale colleges. Tassone proudly boasts of this accomplishment and others, such as a skywalk, that he has produced since being hired. Tassone is everybody’s fair-haired boy. Okay, so the hair is dyed a little and gelled a lot. His face is re-tucked behind his ears, and he wears the bespoke suits of a highly successful businessman.

Tassone dismisses his business manager for stealing from school funds after a student journalist revealed the accountant’s thievery by taking the time to go through public records for contractors’ and vendors’ invoices. Tassone throws the accountant to the wolves under the bus and offers nearly plausible excuses to their colleagues. She turns on him. His own downfall comes soon after.

The cast of Bad Education personifies the film’s excellence. Ray Romano impresses as the good-hearted head of the school board, and Annaleigh Ashford, memorable in Masters of Sex, controls the role of the accountant’s needy niece. Allison Janney adds a Long Island accent to her admirable acting as the school’s business manager. Frank Tassone also stole millions, but Hugh Jackman steals the show. Jackman’s magnetic — watch him especially as he explains to a slow boy how to pronounce “accelerated” in a finely choreographed dance.

Bad Education, based on an article from New York Magazine, builds on a solid screenplay, written by Mike Makowsky, who attended Roslyn High in the early 2000s during the scandal. Louise Ford effected the excellent editing, especially notable in the last 20 minutes. Cory Finley directed the admirable film with more craft than he managed in his 2018 debut, the equally misanthropic Thoroughbreds.

Finley makes sure to note in the final credits that, although this scandal was covered in major New York papers, it broke in the Hilltop Beacon, the high school newspaper.

Bad Education is now streaming on HBO.

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Martha K. Baker

Martha K. Baker

I first taught film at Lakeland College in Wisconsin in 1969 and became a professional film reviewer in 1976 in St. Louis, Mo. Through the years, I have reviewed films for the St. Louis Business Journal, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Episcopal Life, and KWMU (NPR), among other outlets. I've reviewed at KDHX radio, my current outlet, for nearly 20 years.