Combustible Celluloid
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With: Hugh Jackman, Allison Janney, Geraldine Viswanathan, Alex Wolff, Rafael Casal, Stephen Spinella, Annaleigh Ashford, Ray Romano
Written by: Mike Makowsky, based on an article by Robert Kolker
Directed by: Cory Finley
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 108
Date: 04/25/2020

Bad Education (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Getting Schooled

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Cory Finley follows up his striking debut Thoroughbreds with this queasy true-story movie, which debuted April 25, 2020 on HBO. In Bad Education (not to be confused with Pedro Almodovar's 2004 movie of the same name), Hugh Jackman plays Frank Tassone, superintendent of the Roslyn district of New York. He's well-dressed and always seems to know what to say, whether to a struggling student or to a prodding grown-up. And he's truly dedicated to bringing his school to #1, hopefully with the approval of a new multi-million-dollar skywalk. Unfortunately, assistant superintendent Pamela Gluckin (Allison Janney) is caught embezzling. Frank tries to keep the incident quiet, but an intrepid student reporter, Rachel Bhargava (Geraldine Viswanathan), keeps digging until she finds an even darker truth. Ray Romano plays a friend and colleague of Frank's, dismayed at what he learns. Alex Wolff plays the editor of the school newspaper, worried about his college career if he decides to run Rachel's story. Finley gets terrific performances, making the characters real, and awful, at the same time. He bathes everything in a kind of icky fluorescent light, and the atmosphere is so thick with artificiality and cover-up that we can almost smell Frank's sickly cologne.

HBO's good-looking DVD release -- which emphasizes inky black and grays -- includes two short featurettes (shot on Zoom), and a short virtual conversation between Jackman and Janney (also shot on Zoom). There are English, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles. It's recommended. (A Blu-ray is also available.)

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