Review: Hugh Jackman plays a conniving superintendent in HBO’s ‘Bad Education’ 

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The 2019 film “Bad Education,” which premiered April 25 on HBO, tells the true story of how the Roslyn, Long Island, school district fell from being one of the top districts in the country to becoming entangled in a $11.2 million larceny scandal. Written by Mike Makowsky, a former Roslyn student, the film is a captivating blend of genres, combining comedy, drama and mystery paired with excellent acting and unexpected plot twists. 

The film begins with a presentation announcing how many students were accepted into Ivy League colleges, showcasing the importance of titles and public images, which is a running theme throughout the movie. 

The incredibly versatile Hugh Jackman plays Dr. Frank Tassone, the superintendent of schools at Roslyn, Long Island. Jackman convincingly portrayed the duality of Dr. Tassone. He was a charming, dedicated educator devoted to learning the names of each student. He held a book club for parents, studied the hobbies of each teacher and could relate to anyone.

Roslyn High School was planning on constructing a multi-million dollar skywalk to connect the campuses, yet the ceilings continued to leak.

When student journalist Rachel (Geraldine Viswanathan) comes to him requesting a quote for an article in the school newspaper about the skywalk project, Dr. Tassone inspires her to take the piece deeper. 

“It’s only a puff piece if you let it be a puff piece,” Tassone said. 

Dr. Tassone was also a vain manipulator fixated on his outward appearance. To him, the expensive suits, lobster tail luncheons and cosmetic procedures were all necessary to keep up the part of a committed superintendent. 

I appreciated how quickly the story dived into the action. Within the first 20 minutes or so, the school board becomes aware of the assistant superintendent of business Pam Gluckin’s frivolous spending habits using the district’s credit card. They discover $225,000 unaccounted for, which was used to cover her credit card bills and home improvement purchases. But it was only the tip of the iceberg.


This image released by HBO shows Ray Romano in a scene from "Bad Education."  (HBO via AP)

This image released by HBO shows Ray Romano in a scene from “Bad Education.” (HBO via AP)

Dr. Tassone convinces the school board not to press charges against Gluckin, played by Allison Janney, for fear that the scandal will have a detrimental chain reaction — the school’s budget wouldn’t pass, prestigious colleges would no longer accept Roslyn students and the real estate market would suffer. Gluckin resigns, promising to pay every penny back in exchange for escaping criminal charges. 

Meanwhile, Rachel heeds Dr. Tassone’s advice and continues to investigate the school’s shady financial records. She examines the countless invoices, uncovering yearly payments made by the school to companies that don’t even exist. Faced with evidence that would destroy the community, she decides to follow her instincts and publishes the article in Roslyn High’s student newspaper. Dr. Tassone’s world quickly came crumbling down. 

Overall, “Bad Education” delivers an entertaining yet accurate adaptation of the largest public school embezzlement in American history with a satisfying conclusion. Jackman truly excels in the role of a corrupt administrator. Jackman and Janney have a believable, funny dynamic, and their chemistry shines throughout the whole film.

Rating: 4/5

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Emily Pall is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at emily.pall@uconn.edu.

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