by Kyle Arango
Growing up in Florida, it always felt like the board did not know what to do with the money they were given. That their budget went to disingenuous things instead of needs like better classrooms or updated equipment. Now imagine if some of that money was actually used to better the school, but only some of it. The other was put in the back pockets of those in charge to better their luxurious lifestyles. That is the concept behind Bad Education, a new film from HBO. The result? A riveting, informative narrative led by great performances that educates the audience on the ins and outs of the people in charge of your children’s education.
Bad Education is based on the true story of the biggest public-school embezzlement scheme in history where Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman) and Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney) stole over $5 million in funds from the school for their own gain. I had no idea this story existed. Embezzlement has always been a fascinating crime to explore because it usually comes from the most unsuspecting people we trust the most. That is what I believe worked so well in this film, that journey of emotions where we can see the good and crazy in the ones who commit this kind. Frank Tassone turned the school system around during his time and had them at number four in the country. Clearly, he was doing something right, until he dipped his toe in funds and fell in the pool. The intrigue of watching this scandal slowly start to unfold is very gripping and with each development you can only shake your head more. The first act takes a moment to pick up, but once the scandal begins, this film flies. It is disgusting white collar crime at its finest and it will leave you as angry as the parents they stole from.
The leads who drive this film are fantastic as well. Hugh Jackman needs more recognition for his work outside of wolverine. His dramatic work is always superb and here he is no different. He plays this man who you really like at first. He is a symbol of success where everything he touches turns to gold which has made him something like a holy figure in his field. However, the sleaziness starts to come out and Jackman plays that with force. He is persuasive and scary where you believe he means every word he says. There is a scene where he shakes a chair that will be played as his Oscar moment should he get a deserved nomination. Allison Janney is also fantastic in her own right. You can see the distress in her performance as this woman who slowly starts to become unhinged as her crimes are discovered. She has always been great in her roles, her character in I, Tonya is one of the best performances of the decade, and here she is pretty outstanding as well. Her and Jackman having this toxic dynamic between the two works so well and with different actors, you might not have believed the actions behind their characters.
We are all locked in our homes right now and are starving for any solid, new entertainment we can get. Look no further than Bad Education to satisfy your need. HBO has delivered a fantastic film that really makes us question those running our education system and think about what decisions are made every day. I certainly think awards consideration is deserved for this film, although it might be aspirational considering its platform and time of the year. Hey who knows? Any film has a chance with the year were in and hopefully this film, especially Hugh Jackman, gets attention.
The Verdict: 4/5 Stars