The amount of times I gasped!
I went into Bad Education with little knowledge of what the film was actually about but with a phenomenal cast leading the way I knew that I was in for a phenomenal ride. With Hugh Jackman leading the way; along with Allison Janney, Ray Romano and Rafael Casal right by his side there was little that could go wrong. Sure, while watching the story unfold it can be a bit difficult to believe that it is based on a true story but yes, Bad Education tells the story of an admired and beloved superintendent who along with his business administrator (and some of their family and friends) embezzled the largest amount of money from a school district in American History.
Directed by Cory Finley, Bad Education tells the story of how a High School student brought the fraud to the forefront. This film is as close to flawless as a film can get. With the lens always drawing your attention to things that you would normally miss, every single scene finds a way to be new and inventive. The story, though chaotic, finds a way to be concise and screenwriter Mike Makowsky finds small moments of levity to ease the tension.
Not only does Makowsky tell a compelling story but he allows for the story to take a life of it’s own. You cannot watch this film and not start questioning just how much the people working for our public school system are getting paid. Though we’re faced with complicated and often terrible characters, there’s a few moments where you will find yourself empathizing with their actions. Admittedly the empathy doesn’t last very long. Again, these people embezzled 11.2 million dollars from the Roslyn school district.
Though the groundwork is clearly there for Bad Education, the cast that has been assembled for it, is where the magic truly happens. Allison Janney can do no wrong and her role as business manager, Pam Gluckin is just another example of that. Janney and Jackman on screen together are absolutely engaging from beginning to end.
I’m sure I’m not the first one saying the following but it absolutely must be said again: Hugh Jackman gives one of his best performances in Bad Education. It’s truly a shame that the film was never due for a theatrical release because with these new Oscar rules, I’m sure Jackman would have garnered a nomination for Oscars 2021.
Hugh Jackman played the narcissistic Frank with beautiful subtlety, there’s no denying that Frank leads with his vanity but Hugh allows you into the flaws and finds moments to make you feel sorry for Frank. So sure, often Frank’s vanity takes the lead but that is not the case when it comes to Frank’s relationship with a young exotic dancer, Kyle Contreras played by Rafael Casal. This relationship could have been gratuitous, it could have gotten lost in the mess that was Frank’s life. Yet, Cory allowed this relationship to breathe and at one point I found myself absolutely rooting for Frank and Kyle to get their happily ever after.
Now that may have much to do with the chemistry between Rafael Casal and Hugh Jackman, because it was absolutely palpable. It could also be said that I’m a bit biased since I’ve been raving about Rafael Casal for years now but he played Kyle in such a charismatic and nuanced way that it left me craving more backstory on the character. We love an actor who refuses to be type-cast!
Bad Education is one of my favorite movies of 2020 and sure, that may not be saying much since every movie is being delayed at this point. However, I’m sure that would still be the case under any other circumstances. I beg of you to watch this complex moral story which deep dives into the intricacies of our school system. When you do, please come back here because we’re always accepting new members for the Rafael Casal Fan Club.
Bad Education is now streaming on HBO.