TIFF 2019: “Bad Education” Review
The Toronto International Film Festival gets a plethora of great premieres, including huge films like Jojo Rabbit, Knives Out and the North American premiere of Joker, but some others fly under the radar. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of these films still have star power, but they aren’t the most sought out. A good example of this is Bad Education, an engrossing tale of embezzlement and corruption lead by amazing performances from Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney along with a razor-sharp script written by Mike Makowsky.
Hugh Jackman plays Frank Tassone, the superintendent of schools for Roslyn School Districts in Long Island, NY. His continued success as an administrator has earned him the admiration of the entire district, but things quickly change. His assistant superintendent for business Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney) with numerous indiscretions, turns a young high school journalist, Rachel (Geraldine Viswanathan) on her tail. The further that Rachel digs into the finances of the district, the more she uncovers, threatening everything that Frank and Pam have built in the Long Island community.
Now, a public school embezzlement story may not scream “entertaining” to you, but Bad Education is entrancing. The pacing and writing in the screenplay is perfection. With a story that could get bogged down in the specifics and minutia of the story, Bad Education soars. The screenplay dodges in and out of the person and professional lives of Pam and Frank with ease, truly creating a web of lies and crimes.
Hugh Jackman can charm an audience and it is certainly perfect casting to have him play Frank Tassone, a man who charmed an entire school district. He embodies the controlled and collected superintendent with ease. As we see the character’s life begin to unravel, you can feel the tension in Jackman’s performance. In one scene, we get to see his shell starting to crumble as he must deal with a mother and son who have no clue what is going on and are focused on what they need. His tense reserve and delivery is spot on. Allison Janney gives us a fantastic performance and also balances the control and chaos that Pam is attempting to keep together.
What strikes me most about this film is how surprisingly funny it is. I didn’t expect to laugh nearly as much as I did during the film and that is thanks to a great script. There are small moments in each scene that are a subtle jab at something or just meant to make you chuckle. Because of this humor, I think the story could keep the audience’s attention. This isn’t always an easy task to tackle but writer, Mike Makowsky has managed to do so.
Bad Education manages to set itself apart from other films thanks to a great script, spot-on performances, and a balance of humor and suspenseful storytelling. Based on a true story, Bad Education reminds us to always beware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.