Bad Education

Such a ruin can a love of luxury be. It turns otherwise endearing people astray. Makes pending sociopaths of ambitious folk with a bone to pick and a taste for the delicious. In other words, the path to self-betterment can lead to the largest public school embezzlement in American history. This is a true story. 

Cory Finley‘s excellent tragicomedy Bad Education (2019), now on HBO, is based on the New York Magazine article The Bad Superintenent, and sees Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney perfectly play partners in white-collar crime. With Jackman as Dr. Frank Tassone, the superintendent of Roslyn School District in Long Island, the slightly more sinister of the two. And Janney, as his assistant, Pam Gluckin, unintentionally blowing everyone else off screen. It’s not Jackman’s fault, who is flawless as the disgraced, oddly inspirational teacher, with an entirely closeted (double) life, multiple backroom deals going on for decades, a true enthusiasm for excellence, and a facade of doll-like precision covering up for unexpressed passions. It’s just that Janney is a force of nature that bows to no man. When she breaks, you feel it.

It’s truly a small miracle to watch the way these two antisocial misfits con their way into people’s trust, as Jackman and Janney make them all too human. It must be because beneath every con there used to be a prophet that never got the pulpit, and therefore it is genuinely excruciating to watch them go undone after a slight mishap in a delivery, and a determined Roslyn high school journalist (a no-nonsense Geraldine Viswanathan) derailing their game through sheer passion for truth.

I went into this story with no expectations, only quarantine time to burn, and came out moved. Really.

★★★★✩

Author: © Milana Vujkov

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