Over the course of his career, Hugh Jackman has certainly picked different roles. From the big booming musicals such as Oklahoma!, Les Miserables, and The Greatest Showman to romantic dramas such as Australia to his iconic portrayal of Wolverine for the X-Men series. But Hugh Jackman is truly at this best when he is playing an insidious almost villainous role. Think on his dark portrayal of a maddened magician in Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige or his grief-stricken father who turns violent in Denis Villeneuve’s criminally underseen Prisoners.
In this malevolence does Jackman really shine which is why Bad Education is such a compelling movie.
Based on a true story, Bad Education revolves around Frank Tassone who works in the Roslyn School District as superintendent. Tassone is a high-achiever who gets major results for his district, pleasing both the students and their parents. Alongside his friend Pam Gluckin, Frank is almost a celebrity where he works. However, after encouraging student Rachel Bhargava to push her journalistic skills further, Rachel untangle an embezzlement scheme so big that everything Frank has built is threatened.
Many are applauding this as Jackman’s best work and it is hard to argue here. Jackman encompasses every aspect of Tassone. His love for peacocking and preening covets a man who’ll abuse and extort the system for his own personal game. Though he is charming to all, as the cracks start to show, it is clear that Tassone is more manipulative and secretive then all first thought. Jackman is stellar in this multi-faceted role as the vain Tassone tries to keep his corruption hidden.
Alison Janney is on perfect form as Gluckin – especially as the conspiracy is uncovered and Gluckin falls quickly (and certainly not quietly.) There’s a wonderful silent yet rage filled exchange between the pair that should get all the praise alone. It certainly stands as a turning point for the film.
Corey Findlay, who broke through from stage to the big screen with the tremendous Thoroughbreds, does incredible work here. A brooding frame and sense of character helps lift the story in this tremendously gripping film. Findlay also brings a great sense of the era to the film, from the music to a well-placed poster, it is steeped in early 00s nostalgia.
It is, however, the script from Mike Makowsky that shines here. After all, the story is a tale of two sides. First, it is an impressive character study on an accomplished man so embroiled in his own lies that when they come undone, he spirals out of control. Secondly, it’s a great investigative journalism drama, akin to the Academy Award winning Spotlight as Rachel goes to great lengths to unearth the truth about her school. Makowsky, who based the article on The Bad Superintendent article by Robert Kolker, was also a student in the Roslyn School District when it all unfolded. There is such a realistic blend of thrills and emotion.
The film only falters when it brings in characters for pure shock, especially since after they are interesting players in the story. Blindspotting’s Rafael Casal takes on a different role as ex-student Kyle Contreras that it is a shame we don’t spend as much time with him as you’d like.
Michael Abels interjects a great score and Lyle Vincent’s cinematography is great. Yet Bad Education is, at its core, about its characters and how perfection could fall apart by one pull of the thread. Enthralling and engaging, and with one highly memorable dance sequence, Bad Education is a must-see for all.
Bad Education is available in America on HBO Go.
However, it has no official UK release.