Starring Hugh Jackman, Allison Janney, Alex Wolfe, Ray Ramano
Cory Finley gets a gentleman’s C for his new film Bad Education. There were better ways into the story about the largest high school embezzlement scandal. Maybe doing it like “Big Little Lies” and having colorful staff members talk about the superintendent would have been more effective. Whatever the key was, Finely (“Thoroughbreds“) doesn’t find it. Hugh Jackman is also miscast as the guy who on the surface is charming and moral while hiding his dark secrets and sociopathic behavior underneath. Janney is one of the highlights of the film but Finely doesn’t utilize her full potential and she disappears from the story far too quickly. After the disappointment with “The Front Runner,” I’m not sure Jackman can succeed with dark-humored storylines. The dry nature of how “Bad Education” is presented here vilifies the notion of tweaking the truth a bit to make it more colorful, more entertaining
Pam Gluckin (Janney) has been the assistant superintendent of the Roslyn school district for years. She changes husbands as often as hairstyles. Widow and all-around likable guy Frank Tassone has risen from beloved teacher to the top job of the superintendent and everyone adores him. Sophomore Rachel Kellog (Viswanathan) needs a quote for the school newspaper about the expensive new sky bridge the school is building. Frank happens to be available, gives here the quote she needs, but encourages her innocently to always dig deeper. “It’s only a puff piece if you allow it to be,” he says. Digging deeper, Rachel discovers some alarming figures in the school’s financial records. Pam has been using the business account for personal use and the discovery sends shockwaves through the administration. What they do about it, is even more shocking.
Jackman never even gets a real scene to chew until the end where he goes off on a parent, entirely warranted, but out of context."
Hugh Jackman was cast because they needed a marquee name to sell the film. He fits the part of a lovable well-dressed administrator who shy’s away from carbs and doesn’t drink. What Jackman can’t transition to is the other side of Tassone that’s revealed all too slowly. Mike Makowsky’s notion in the film that because a grown man dresses nice, cares about his hair and skin, that he must be he’s gay, will be offensive to some. Makowsky and Finley also can’t decide on a tone for “Bad Education,” sarcastic comedy or serious scandal film. They want to pivot off the idea that a town is only as good as it’s the school system, explaining why this board did what they did to cover up a scandal that ended up imploding in their face.
After the first thirty minutes, it becomes clear “Bad Education” can’t find a hook for the audience. Jackman never even gets a real scene to chew until the end where he goes off on a parent, entirely warranted, but out of context. By then the audience views him as a scum ball and we don’t know who to empathize within that scene. The message here should be about how easily adults take advantage of children’s futures, but that ideology is also lost in the script and direction. The film’s comedic moments are the ones that stand out. Ashford (“Unicorn Store“) who plays Gluckin’s bobblehead niece gets the most laughs in a role that’s insignificant to the plot.
"Bad Education" won't make the honor roll.