Bad Education (2019)
Directed by: Cory Finely
Written by: Mike Makowsky
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Ray Romano, Welker White, Allison Janney, Annaleigh Ashford
Hugh Jackman shines in a film that dives into the biggest public school scandal in American History.
They do it for the children right? That’s what the students at Roslyn High School were lead to believe until they realized it was all a lie.
Based on a true story, “Bad Education” looks at the biggest embezzlement scandal in American History and the consequences that resulted from it. The film focuses on Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman), a beloved school administrator who was caught embezzling millions of dollar in school funds during the early ’00s and sent shockwaves throughout the entire teaching community. Embezzlement is a crime that is often committed but is rarely reported because no one takes the time to look. But “Bad Education” shows that as long as the right people start asking the right questions, justice can be served on those who cheat the system.
Hugh Jackman Awards Buzz?
Straight to the point, this is the finest performance of Hugh Jackman’s career.
You don’t see Jackman in the role because you get lost in his character. He is just that good. Jackman embodies this role with effortless charisma and charm, making you want to love this character; even if he isn’t the most honest guy in the world. It makes his downfall all the more devastating because part of you wants to see him get away with it. Unlike Martin Scorsese’s “Wolf of Wall Street” where every character is a raging coke-head criminal, here you actually care about these characters because they actually feel like real people. In the best films starring criminals, the filmmakers are able to make the audience want to root for them despite the crimes they are committing. Credit that to director Cory Finley who knew exactly how he wanted to tell this story. Now although the directing is top-notch, it’s Hugh Jackman’s performance that convinces you to root for these characters and their crisis.
Jackman is easily the frontrunner for all the awards, though because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be confusing to see what awards he qualifies for. But if we had a say, we say he should qualify for all the awards. The Wolverine is Jackman’s most iconic role, but Frank Tassone in “Bad Education” is his most prestigious.
A Rising Star
But as usual with these types of stories, the villain is the headline while the true heroes are never known. All it took was one motivated student journalist to start asking questions. Roslyn Sophomore Rachel Bhargava (Geraldine Viswanathan) was that one student. She was not going to be intimidated just because the people she was investigating were her superiors. That’s the mark of a fearless professional. Geraldine absolutely nails this role and perfectly balances awkwardness with confidence.
This is a performance that will put her on the map and we see many big movie roles coming her way. Geraldine does brilliant job of showing the audience that being a journalist is no cakewalk. She knows she could be risking her career and careers of many others but she was determined to do the right thing. But as she digs deeper, she realizes that she is going to hurt a lot of people if she publishes the story. This internal dilemma leads to many complicated internal struggles; struggles that are worth talking about.
Moral Dilemmas and Tough Decisions
What makes “Bad Education” so good is the tough questions it asks the characters, as well as the audience. You’ve seen someone doing something wrong, someone who is beloved, but do you speak up and do the right thing? Or stay silent because you know that same person can get you into Harvard? This isn’t restricted to the public school system, this struggle has happened to pretty much everyone who is old enough to make life decisions. Do you do what is morally right for everyone or do you put your own-self gain as the number one priority? When thinking on that subject, we aren’t that much different than the “villain’s” of this movie.
One could argue that knowing someone committed a crime and not saying anything, is just as bad as committing the crime itself. Everyone has done something illegal in their lifetime, these teachers just happened to get caught. That doesn’t mean these administrators are bad people, they just happened to get caught doing a bad thing. This is what makes “Bad Education” so thought-provoking because it really makes you ask yourself “what would you do?”
“Bad Education” is a strong contender for Best Film of the Year so far. Lead by a career-defining performance from Hugh Jackman, a script and story that asks many important questions, and a breakout performance from Geraldine Viswanathan, this is a film that’s well on its way for a strong awards campaign. After a year where movie theaters have been shuttered, it’s films like these that really make you appreciate just how much we miss new releases. Check this film out on HBO because it is well-worth your time.