Bad Education is Good Entertainment (a Review)

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It’s great to finally get to watch a new movie again. Of course, the year I decide to try and review as many new movies in cinema as possible is the year of a global pandemic. HBO has it covered though with a look at something else that is unfortunately on hold during this pandemic, school, in the movie Bad Education.

The film, set on Long Island in the early 2000s, follows then superintendent of Roslyn, Dr Frank Tassone. After getting Roslyn to No 4 in the state with plans to build a SkyWalk in hopes of reaching No 1 everything is undone when a series of oversights ends up leading the student paper to find a giant fraud scheme ran with the assistant superintendent. From there every spirals our as Frank must face the fed, school board, and angry parents.

The film is wonderful thanks to the performances of everyone involved, as well as the, mostly, solid writing. The main standout is Jackman himself as Frank. He is able to fully embody what made him such a smooth talker, charismatic, and devious. It helps that the dialogue is sharp, and the believable people.

The filmmaking is not amazing. A transition at the end from a jail to a school is impressive, but everything else is fairly conventional with space and compositions. The element this movie does have is great atmosphere. That’s an odd thing for a realistic drama to have, but being set in the early 2000s feels really nostalgic and like something from another time in a way nothing else about the movie does. It help grounds it and bring it to life.

The biggest problem the movie has is in pacing and scale. The total amount of money stolen is given at the end, but the movie doesn’t do a good job showing that scale or how it was all spent. It focuses on one or two major items but leaves the rest out. Similarly the film spends a lot of time in the first act setup. This leads into a couple montages to fill in crime and fallout when that should be all interesting to follow. It helps that the characters we follow are compelling so it does not matter, but it just does not give us a whole picture of the crime and fallout afterward. It also has a few too many conveniences that comes from what feels like compressing a much wider spread narrative into a film.

Overall it is a still a sharp, well constructed based on a true story scandal movie. I mean it somehow makes the students find out about the crime on their own plot work and not feel totally 90s Nickelodeon cool. It does have some of its own good stuff taken out, but it’s a system that works!

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