Toronto 2019: Bad Education

Bad Education features a star-studded cast and tells the incredible true story about what transpired in a prestigious Long Island school district.

When Hilltop Beacon reporter Rachel Bhargava (Geraldine Viswanathan) looks into some expense reports for an upcoming Roslyn School District project, she finds something else.  Together with her dad, David Bhargava (Hari Dhillon), the two of them realize that there’s more here than meets the eye.  Appropriately, they look into it.  One thing leads to another and before you know it, the district is embroiled in a scandal.  It turns out that the assistant superintendent for business, Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney), embezzled money from the school district when nobody was paying attention.  While the school paper isn’t interested at first, Rachel takes matters into her own hands.

Superintendent Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman) doesn’t mess around here.  The buck might stop with him but he’s a person who leads by example.  Or should be doing so, anyway.  He’ll throw Pam under the bus if it means not destroying the school’s reputation.  Meanwhile, he’s traveling across the country for conferences and such.  One chance encounter at a bar ends up being a reunion with former student Kyle Contreras (Rafael Casal).  Things happen between these two–leading to a double life for Frank.  A double-life that nobody could have ever expected!  School board chairman Big Bob Spicer (Ray Romano) couldn’t have predicted district leadership would crumble front of his eyes.

He might not be playing Wolverine anymore but Hugh Jackman is at the top of his game in Bad Education.  He goes from a scandal-plagued politician in The Front Runner to a superintendent at the heart of a cover-up.  One who is very complex as characters go–even for one drawn from real life.  Meanwhile, Allison Janney also turns in a solid performance.  The two share superb chemistry on screen.  Ray Romano has more of a minor supporting role but he’s also good in the film.

Having screenwriter Mike Makowsky being a former district student lends some first-hand experience of being a student at the time the crime took place.  Sure, the film may focus on Frank but you can’t have his high-profile collapse without others digging into his past.

Bad Education is a black comedy.  There are times where one can’t help but laugh.  At the same time, one will wonder how this could possibly happen!  And yet, you can’t help but feel sorry for Frank.  Here’s a man who wasn’t able to truly live his life.  Maybe Frank would have benefited from being born a decade or two later?  Regardless of the system in place, it still isn’t enough for Frank.

The film doesn’t have a distributor coming out of the Toronto premiere.  Here’s to hoping this changes.  Whether it’s a streamer or mid-major studio, Bad Education is sure to find a home.  With this cast and story, how could it not?!?

DIRECTOR:  Cory Finley
SCREENWRITER:  Mike Makowsky
CAST:  Hugh Jackman, Allison Janney, Geraldine Viswanathan, Ray Romano, Alex Wolff, Hari Dhillon, Rafael Casal

Bad Education held its world premiere during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival in the Special Presentations program. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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