“Bad Education” is a strong Emmy contender for best TV movie, largely because it uses a great cast to tell an almost unbelievable story.
Like “The Post,” “Absence of Malice” and many other journalism-heavy films, it shows how seemingly above-the-law folks get caught.
Based in truth (and set in the early 2000s), “Bad Education” follows two administrators, Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman) and Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney) as they try to hide how they took millions out of their New York school system.
Roslyn High School chalks up educational accomplishments under his leadership; the town benefits from those advances.
Naively, a student reporter, Rachel Bhargava (Geraldine Viswanathan), happens upon information that suggests problems with the district’s finances. Gluckin, it seems, has an expense card that she openly shares with others. When a home remodeling project draws concern, the school board president begins asking questions.
Sure enough, Gluckin has been embezzling hundreds of thousands. Rather than risk the bad publicity, Tassone asks the board to keep it under wraps. The members do, Gluckin “retires,” and the dominoes begin to fall.
Directed by Cory Finley, “Bad Education” is a juicy “how’d they do it?” drama. Jackman and Janney complement each other nicely and, as the prying reporter, Viswanathan is just right.
While the real Frank Tassone says the film isn’t truthful, it is a cracklingly good mystery.
As Jackman’s Tassone gets closer to being found out, you can almost see the wheels turning in his head. One by one, the receipts tell a fascinating story – particularly when they include first-class plane tickets.
A secret life is revealed and, soon, the courtroom drama begins.
Janney offers up a fun accent (and a flair for entertaining); Jackman is ideal as the man who thinks he can doctor the truth.
Written by Mike Makowsky, “Bad Education” should be mandatory viewing for journalism students. It shows how a little legwork and tenacity can produce telling results.
Nominated for Best TV Movie and Lead Actor, “Bad Education” is likely to go home with at least one trophy. There’s plenty here to savor, particularly since it shows covers don't necessarily reveal the books within.
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