Like most of us I have been sitting through quarantine waiting for the next big hit to appear on my television. Unfortunately there have been more misses than hits but occasionally you run across a real gem. For me during quarantine I’ve found 2 gems from HBO: the first is the docuseries McMillions, which I adored, and the second a new dramatic film called Bad Education that is one of the best films I’ve seen in 2020.
There are many great things about Bad Education but the biggest standout is the dynamite script by Mike Makowsky based on a book by Robert Kolker. The plot is based on the true story of former superintendent Frank Tassone who in 2004 was convicted of stealing millions of dollars from the local school system in Long Island. Evidently Makowsky was a student at the very schools when this was all happening and that closeness gives the script a sharpness I don’t think you’d have otherwise.
When I compare Bad Education to something like The Big Short it is especially impressive. The script does not waste any time over-explaining the scam. It doesn’t make Tassone into too much of a sniveling greedy rich guy. He has a lot of softer moments but then they are put alongside some that are exceedingly selfish. I was so impressed by how tightly written the script was and how well done every character is written. Even small characters like Tassone’s life-partner gets a full character arc in only a few scenes.
It almost goes without saying but Hugh Jackman is remarkable as Tassone, as is Alison Janney as his partner in crime (literally). Again these are very selfish characters but their weaknesses are easy to imagine falling into, making the story all the more compelling. Their great performances and the terrific script make for a very entertaining ride.
I also thought Geraldine Viswanathan was excellent as the young student who begins digging into the waste and corruption at the schools. At first Tassone thinks he can patronize her assuming her work will come to nothing. Then the more she digs the more scared he gets. It was very well done!
In addition, don’t miss Ray Ramano in another excellent supporting role. Honestly, the whole cast is great.
If I was going to nitpick the film probably spends a little bit too long on Tassone’s personal life but even that I didn’t mind much because it was so well executed.
If you like captivating true stories then you definitely need to see Bad Education. It is funny, chilling, well acted wonderful film. I highly recommend it! If it was in the theater it would be an R rated film but it’s not too bad. Some mild sensuality and language is all.
Check it out!
8 out of 10