Oscar nominee Hugh Jackman has never been better than he is in Cory Finley’s Bad Education. Playing real-life (and larger than life) personality Dr. Frank A. Tassone, Jackman creates a character oozing a fluid, effortless charisma. It’s easy to see why an entire school community looked the other way while he…
Let me stop there.
Bad Education is a film best suited to those who know nothing about Tassone’s story. It’s the kind of film that appears to be one thing but then shifts into a different gear completely. It offers a story of prestige, of white privilege, of corruption, and of secrets and lies. It’s all underscored by Michael Abels’ (Us, Get Out) score that announces this a tragic downfall story through its operatic intent. Bad Education comes to us on HBO, but it’s the most compelling film I’ve seen this year – cinema or television.
The beauty of Mike Makowsky’s brilliant screenplay is that it entertainingly illustrates the criticality of Roslyn High School to the local community. Money flows like water through its halls, downstream like tendrils into the community itself. Pumping dollars into a high school striving to achieve that all-American goal of being Number One allowed gross financial negligence and corruption within its halls. The film highlights the evils of a capitalist society that allows crimes to be swept under thanks to the delicate, but persistent, ecosystem of white privilege.
Stars Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney will be nominated for Emmys in their respective Limited Series / TV Movie categories. They both deserve every accolade coming their way. Janney’s Pam Gluckin embodies the expectation that “I get what’s coming to me.” She works hard for the children of Roslyn High School, and she accentuates her compensation any way she can. Oscar-winner Janney gives us tremendous moments of genuine, comic incredulity. She’s brilliant here, one of our very best actresses stretching her muscles flawlessly.
Jackman draws on the ringmaster charm employed in The Greatest Showman but uses it to mask the secrets of Tassone. Jackman’s Tassone thrives on personal interaction as much as he thrives on his tightrope walking. He’s essentially a con man, but a con man who wants to do good for his community. He wants the image of perfection but with personal secrets and complications that, let’s say, make perfection unobtainable. It’s a complex and accomplished performance. It’s also something that only a handful of actors with the right amount of charisma and showmanship could pull off. Jackson does so brilliantly.
They are both well supported by a game cast, including Ray Romano and Geraldine Viswanathan. Viswanathan plays an ambitious student with a strong moral compass and journalistic integrity. Think of her as the Woodward and Bernstein of the high school set.
Bad Education should be broadly embraced by the Television Academy. It’s the kind of film that’s perfectly within their wheelhouse: ripped from the headlines, political, and just sensational enough. It’s a great document of the dangers in mixing American capitalism with the educational system. And it’s just fantastically entertaining in telling its story.
Leading Actor in a Limited Series / TV Movie – Hugh Jackman
Supporting Actress in a Limited Series / TV Movie – Allison Janney
Music Composition For A Limited Series, Movie Or Special (Original Dramatic Score) – Michael Abels
Supporting Actor in a Limited Series / TV Movie – Ray Romano
Supporting Actress in a Limited Series / TV Movie – Geraldine Viswanathan