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Photo: Bad Education/HBO
Corruption exists, even in the public school system. Bad Education reminds us of this. Back in the 2000s, Roslyn High School in Long Island learned that the hard way. Bad Education details how the district suffered the largest public school embezzlement scheme in American history, destroying the faith and trust many had in those in authority.
Thanks to an outstanding lead in Hugh Jackman and solid support from Allison Janney, Geraldine Viswanathan, Ray Romano, and Alex Wolff paired with sharp writing and pacing from writer Mike Makowsky, HBO’s straight-to-service film overachieves and delivers a punch to the gut.
Hugh’s Still Got It – Bad Education
Hugh Jackman hasn’t delivered a quality performance this good since Logan in 2017. I purposefully didn’t do any research on what really happened so I could immerse myself in the story and this benefited me greatly. Not knowing exactly who Frank Tassone was and is, allowed me to get to know the character without any predesignated notions of Tassone. And wow, is Jackman amazing. Jackman perfectly tiptoes between the “corrupt politician” type and a man who fought to help improve his district but lost his way which forced me to regularly re-think my opinion on the man.
Throughout the film, Jackman conveys a subtlety and nuance that elevates the story as a whole. From his love affairs, living the good life, and doing whatever it takes to continue his work, Frank Tassone is a complex man, even if you want to punch him in the face at moments for abusing his power to a near-villainous capacity.
Jackman is unlikely to get any Oscar consideration (Golden Globe maybe?). Though this year, with a drought in films, this may be the year a service like HBO can get recognition. Regardless, a great performance is a great performance, and over time many will see just how impressive a role from Jackman this was. I’m used to the loud and charismatic roles of Jackman, but this quieter performance shows he can tone it down for the entirety of a film and still make you feel something inside, good or bad.
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The final scene with Tassone imagining what his life could have been is poignant, once again reminding us he’s not a monster but a human who’s made terrible mistakes.
Sharp and To The Point
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that writer Mike Makowsky would be suited to take on this story. He was there. Makowsky was a student at Roslyn High School when Frank Tassone and Pamela Gluckin, played perfectly by Allison Janney (I, Tonya, The West Wing) were caught for embezzlement.
The writing in this film doesn’t beat around the bush. Instead, Bad Education goes straight for all the vulnerable spots and keeps hitting them. Makowsky wants the audience to truly feel and understand just what happened, and what it was like to be there. We see not just from Tassone’s perspective, but the student who investigated the story and was responsible for bringing clarity to the scam. Rachel (Geraldine Viswanathan) is torn between deciding what’s more important to her: keep the school steady and happy, or come clean with what she discovers even if it tears everything down and hurts her peers in the process.
The sharp and blunt script from Makowsky also aids the film with good pacing as before I knew it, the film was over. This writer is going places, and hopefully, he continues to write more. If Mike does, studios will have no choice but to give him many more opportunities.
Bad Education – Truth Hurts
In a time when police brutality is on everyone’s minds, I’m reminded that corruption is in every level of life. From the federal level to seemingly harmless school systems, everyone is trying to move up and take advantage of loopholes.
A friend of mine said that all politicians, no matter what side they’re on are corrupt in some way. Now that’s a pretty bleak outlook, but after stories like this and studying history from the beginning of man, can you blame those who think that? No wonder mistrust is a foregone conclusion in this world.
When a superintendent and other officials can get away with stealing millions right under the nose of a community just trying to help the next generation, the idea that even greater schemes have and will be concocted by those with greater authority than meer public school leaders isn’t crazy but is far too likely a reality.
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Yes, this was 2004, but I don’t think anyone can say corruption is less prevalent. Frank Tassone went from a great leader to nothing but another politician using the public trust for his gain in mere seconds. Frank Tassone played the role of a family man who wanted nothing than to help his district succeed and give his students endless opportunities. The anger and betrayal families felt when the man they trusted to help their children was found out as the one destroying those opportunities is unimaginable.
Yes, you have to buy it or get HBO to watch, but if you are dying for a masterclass in acting while showcasing Hugh Jackman in tip-top form, Bad Education is worth the price of admission.
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