‘Bad Education’ review: A Tight Tale About a Tight Con

In Bad Education, Hugh Jackman plays Dr. Frank Tassone  with stunning depth and a delightful narcissistic sparkle. Tassone is the superintendent of Roslyn School District in Long Island, which oversees Roslyn High School, and wants, at any cost, to scale its ranking from 4 to numero uno. With assistant superintendent Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney, brilliantly smarmy and sharp), Tassone’s gotten the school the current ranking, and as the movie opens you see how smoothly and suavely he handles anxious parents even while building genteel bridges with students across ages. 

Director Cory Finley and writer Mike Makowsky (who was in Roslyn High school when Tassone was the sup!) spin a tight, enjoyable tale around Tassone’s moral unraveling that’s as surprising to him as shocking it is for you. In his mind, all the glib coats he distributes around his veneer is perfectly fine, for he truly, sincerely, and admirably believes in his job. And does it well. That to succeed in a public-facing role such as his requires some seemingly sneaky ground-work is brought about in a superb scene between Jackman and Janney, as she tests his memory about parents and their wards. And when that polished surface is threatened by grime, he can turn nasty, delivering barely veiled threats to the district auditor Phil Metzger (Jeremy Shamos). 

Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney discuss parents and the former’s horrid drink.

The aforesaid layer-reveal is done thoughtfully, mostly through the eyes of student reporter Rachel Bhargava (Geraldine Viswanathan) who’s covering a puff-piece for the school’s newspaper about an upcoming skywalk project that’s designed to be the school’s stairway to number one heaven. That she’s nudged into making it more meaningful and investigative by Tassone is not just gobsmacking irony. It’s an initial peep into his psyche and self-spin-doctoring propelled by a sense of impregnable indispensability. 

Ray Romano’s character may be stupefied. But stupid he isn’t.

Ray Romano plays Bob Spicer, the school head and real estate broker, and puts in a quietly astounded act. Did he look the other way until it was no longer viable? Or was it just plain trust of convenience? Bad Education doesn’t answer those questions. But it provides a superb insight into two conniving people via delicious scenes between Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney. She completes his sentences, reads his mind, and even knows when he can’t resist a bite of her sandwich while sipping a ghastly diet concoction. You don’t need to analyze the school ledger to know what they don’t speak about. Theirs is the perfect partnership. Almost.  

Bad Education (2019) on IMDb Movie data powered by IMDb. All images owned by the producers.

Bad Education is streaming on Hotstar and is rated U/A (Parental Guidance for children below the age of 12 years).

Bad Education
Director Cory Finley Time 1h 48min
Writer Mike Makowsky
Stars Hugh Jackman, Allison Janney
Genres Biography, Comedy, Crime, Drama

Watch the Bad Education trailer here.