“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” – J.K.Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Similarly, I believe that stories can be found even in the most mundane of topics, if only one has the eye of a storyteller. This was the thought I had half-way into ‘Bad Education’ only later to realize that this was not a mundane topic and the filmmaker, Cory Finley, is far from ordinary and is a member of the prestigious Youngblood playwrights group (collective of up and coming professional playwrights under the age of 30).
Bad Education is inspired by true events and is based on the single largest public school embezzlement scandal in America’s history. Set in 2002, Long Island, New York, Bad Education covers the life of Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman), who along with his alibi Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney), executed an appalling fraud of over $11 million dollars over the period of a few years. Frank was a savvy, neatly-dressed, well-respected superintendent of Roslyn High School. Under his leadership, the school was known as one of the best schools in the country (ranked No. 4). However, there was a different side to Frank Tassone that only Pam Gluckin knew. Pam was a perfect alibi to Frank for the crime – she was a confident school business administrator who was known for working hard.
Bad Education is completely a character-driven film played by two of the strongest actors we have today – Hugh Jackman & Allison Janney. Jackman has played the character of Frank Tassone in an extremely believable manner. His body-language, acting, and behavior ooze the persona of a delusional con-artist. Without having met Frank, one could imagine exactly how he would be just by looking at Jackman in this movie. Being his solitary release in 2019, Jackman can definitely check this as a productive and satisfactory performance and expect some buzz at this year’s Emmy Awards. Allison Janney has done an equally good job of being the second fiddle in Frank’s malicious actions. Now, come to think of it, I can’t recollect the last time Janney has given a bad performance. However, the hidden gem in this film is the performance of a South-Asian, Australian-born actor Geraldine Viswanathan, who plays the role of Rachel Bhargava. The storyline and pace of this movie is immaculate. So much so that the first hour flies by and before even you realize it, you are halfway through the movie.
Bad Education had its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September of 2019. There it was sold to HBO for a whopping $17.5 million dollars. Released during the current stay-at-home period, it is interesting to note that HBO bought this movie purely to be released on its own platform. Another interesting thing to note is that since this movie hasn’t been in theatres, it can’t qualify for an Oscar. However, Bad Education will definitely be a strong contender for this year’ Emmy awards.
With HBO just announcing the launch date of HBO Max (27th May, 2020), one might wonder why HBO did not wait for the launch of this new service and instead premiered the movie on HBO. To be honest, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that HBO gave us access to a beautifully crafted story with our Wolverine and our very own C.J. 🙂
Reviewed by Puneet Ruparel