Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney dive head first with their highly committed performance in portraying nasty perpetrators of the single largest embezzlement scandal in American history. Jackman portrays Frank Tassone, beloved superintendent of Roslyn High School. His character is a pretty man, charismatic and charming in any possible public endeavor. The boards hailed him as a role model, a successful orchestrator of the school’s glimmering achievement. Meanwhile, Janney portrays Pam Gluckin, the assistant superintendent, who looks a tad too glamorous for someone working in academic field. Bad Education is the story of their downfall.
Based on a New York Magazine article titled “The Bad Superintendent” by Robert Kolker, Cory Finley presents the final arc of Tassone and Gluckin’s embezzlement and the eventual coup de grâce. Finley, a former student of Roslyn high, knows better to narrate the story from his perspective. It’s a scandal, a ruthless fraud and a total breach of trust; therefore, he urges to tell it as scandalous as possible. Bad Education, in the end, becomes an edge-of-the-seat crime thriller which doesn’t shy away to track the villains and strip them bare naked.
The fall of grace starts off with a simple, foolish event: Gluckin’s son used her mother’s expense card (charged to Roslyn high) to pay for household expense. As simple as that, that small turn of event will finally unravel the whole ulcers. At the same moment, Rachel Bhargava (Geraldine Viswanathan) suspects some discrepancies while compiling sources for a school paper about the school’s skywalk project. It, then, becomes a game of mouse-and-cat before the final revelation. Tassone, completely aware of the consequences, keeps on bargaining for his life by sinking his co-conspirators while, at the same time, maintain his high-end life.
Bad Education is uncomfortable to watch, even when it’s supposed to be an angry call. It’s Jackman’s charismatic performance that makes it so. He has the likable persona which he showcases even more trickily in this story. It makes a perfect juxtaposition with Tassone who always maintain the top-tier appearance to manipulate people. He’s likable and assuring; people easily fell into the persona he emanates. Tassone is a man of outer look, just like Jackman is a public-relation friendly figure.
To complicate thing, the story also unravels Tassone’s professionally concealed homosexuality to play an even more baffling role. He brags to people about his wife who passed away years ago; but, as it turns out, he has a legal spouse. Jackman subtly makes Tassone’s repressions more contextual as he keeps on highlighting his non-scandal principle as the opposite of “The Bad Superintendent.” His concealed private life, on the other hand, is one of the factors that makes his embezzlement scandals more scandalous. It’s also worth noticing that, while Bad Education loves to unearth this fraud as a message; it somehow fails to dig deeper than the corruption and collusion. It’s only implied that people working in academic field is bound to certain levels of economy; but, it has not once acknowledged in this movie, except for, of course, the scandal.
It’s Jackman who implies those notions through his subtle performance. He’s always been likable and the characters he portrays including in X-Men are usually sympathetic; but, Frank Tassone gives him an extra depth in which he enthusiastically dives into. While Bad Education is tendentious, Jackman makes it a worthy study.