Bad Education

Critics Consensus

Anchored by an outstanding Hugh Jackman, Bad Education finds absurd laughs -- and a worthy message -- in the aftermath of a real-life scandal.

93%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 131

82%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 534

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Movie Info

Inspired by true events, BAD EDUCATION follows Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman) and Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney) who reign over a popular Long Island school district on the verge of the nation's top spot, spurring record college admissions and soaring property values. But when an embezzlement scheme surfaces that threatens to destroy all they've built, Frank is forced to maintain order and secrecy -- by whatever means necessary.

Cast

Hugh Jackman
as Dr. Frank A. Tassone
Allison Janney
as Pamela Gluckin
Geraldine Viswanathan
as Rachel Bhargava
Alex Wolff
as Nick Fleischman
Rafael Casal
as Kyle Contreras
Annaleigh Ashford
as Debra Rigano
Ray Romano
as Bob Spicer
Kayli Carter
as Amber McCarden
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News & Interviews for Bad Education

Critic Reviews for Bad Education

All Critics (131) | Top Critics (21) | Fresh (122) | Rotten (9)

  • Jackman does a magnificent job of portraying a man who has been lying so long on so many fronts, even he isn't sure of the truth any longer.

    April 29, 2020 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Jackman captures that dichotomy perfectly, and makes "Bad Education" an offbeat treat.

    April 25, 2020 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • It's Tassone's perspective that Finley largely keeps to, which - if you don't know the true story - lets "Bad Education" unspool if not surprisingly at least captivatingly.

    April 24, 2020 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • [A] bright, sharp-edged satire with the gift of two great comedic actors: Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney.

    April 24, 2020 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…
  • With Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney as a can't-miss combination, Bad Education joins a juicy true story somewhere in the middle, drags before getting into the meat of it, and then rallies solidly in the second half.

    April 24, 2020 | Full Review…

    Brian Lowry

    CNN.com
    Top Critic
  • Director Cory Finley finds the dark humor within this scandal, which he depicts with wit, style, and a terrific cast.

    April 24, 2020 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Bad Education

  • 6d ago
    Hugh Jackman's best performance.
    Aldo G Super Reviewer
  • May 04, 2020
    NATURAL ELECTION - My Review of BAD EDUCATION (4 Stars) A classic satire comes along every so often to remind me, more than other film genres, that great art can come with a sucker punch to the frontal lobes. Movies such as Network, Nightcrawler, Heathers, and The Lobster remind us that when humans go bad, it's tragic yet devastatingly entertaining. In 1999, Alexander Payne brought us Election, which on the surface brought us a High School Student Council race, but really showed us how the war between ruthless ambition and morality could destroy the very fabric of society. I consider it a masterpiece and have hungered for more films like it ever since. I've waited and waited. Yes, Jojo Rabbit wowed me, but a great satire grounded in the mundane reality of a high school setting has proven elusive. The genre often spells box office poison in this cut and dry storytelling era in which we often find ourselves. Finally, Cory Finley, who brought us the impressive, tonally distinct Thoroughbreds in 2017, has followed it up with Bad Education. It oozes Election's DNA and announce itself as one of the best films of 2020 along with a career-best performance by Hugh Jackman. He stars as Frank Tassone, a real life Long Island High School Superintendent, who in 2002 when we first meet him, has brought Rosyln High School into the number 4 position in the country. Everybody loves Frank. He remembers everyone's names, takes part in an otherwise women's only book club, pays attention to his students, and eases complaining parents' worries by allowing their children to take tests again. This, coupled with the fact that so many students get into Ivy League schools and that property values have gone sky high because of his school's desirability, and no wonder Frank gets a virtual standing ovation wherever he goes. His loyal partner-in-crime, Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney) acts as his Business Administrator, and presides over the development of a multi-million dollar Skybridge for the school, which will add to the prestige. Frank and Pam work hard, banter effortlessly, and have the world at their fingertips. Pay close attention, however, and you'll notice little cracks here and there. It's called Bad Education for a reason. Things go real bad. Screenwriter Mike Makowsky, who attended Rosyln High around the time of the film's events, impressively peels back the onion layers of the story. He beautifully mines suspense out of each little reveal and twist, giving the film a fantastic forward momentum. I knew nothing about the story going in, and won't spoil those details here, but I haven't felt this confident in a storyteller's abilities since Vince Gilligan blazed a trail with Breaking Bad. Additionally, he has written for a large cast of characters, all of whom have distinctive voices and a chance to pop. While Jackman and Janney do stellar work, (more on them later), Geradline Viswanathan (a hilarious standout from Blockers) beautifully switches gears by giving a smart, tamped down performance as a student journalist with a great B.S. Detector. She answers to Alex Wolff's Nick, the newspaper editor who only cares about getting into a great college. Wolff, who shined in Hereditary, also surprised me with his ability to inhabit his soul- deprived character. Tony Winner Annaleigh Ashford broke my heart as Gluckin's naive niece and co-worker, a person who thinks her tiny issues have caused so much trouble while neglecting to see the big picture problems right in front of her. Ray Romano knocks it out of the park as the head of the school board, a man who has had his own financial success but can't or won't acknowledge the nefarious schemes because his school has excelled so much. Rafael Casal plays a former student of Frank's who didn't quite live up to his potential. If you think you know Casal from his street-smart writing and acting in Blindspotting, think again. Here's an actor with true range, making himself nearly unrecognizable from before by changing his voice and demeanor to effortlessly slip into the skin of this sensitive gay bartender/dancer. Jeremy Shamos stands out as the put upon accountant who Frank plays like a fiddle to keep him from figuring out what's really happening. I wish Allison Janney had more to do in the second half of the film, but she galvanizes the first half with her fearless characterization of a woman who knows how to bulldoze a conversation to her liking. The accents may be broad, but she, like the rest of the cast, find the specifics of their humanity. The film, of course, belongs to Jackman. With slicked-back hair and sharp suits, he commands any room he enters. Sure he's relatable lamenting the perpetual charcoal smoothies he drinks for his diet and smooth as he expertly bats off adoring single parents, but there's also something tightly wound and off about him. His early conversations with Pam feel like romantic comedy banter but the details fly by so fast you're not really sure what they're talking about. Stick with it, because Makowsky and Finley know exactly what they're doing to rope you in and make you hold on tight. As it progresses we see more and more of the real Frank emerging. We experience a touching scene in which Frank awkwardly lets down his guard to share a dance with someone. Moments later, we meet the real Frank and it's the most naked and raw Jackman has ever been. Another late scene gives Frank the opportunity to bare his true feelings and intentions on an unsuspecting parent, giving us a glimpse into Frank's motivations, truly ugly but also understandable. It's clear that Frank has had to perform for people his entire life, as he expertly navigates his image. It's a wonderfully modulated, scary, yet humane performance. We may not like what Frank does, but it's easy to put yourself in the shoes of an underpaid, overworked servant to the community. Finlay and his cinematographer Lyle Vincent keep the film grounded with a realistic, fluorescent, dull sheen. The events may be extraordinary, but they, like Alexander Payne, know how to find life in the ordinary. Composer Michael Abels, who wrote the brilliant scores for Get Out and Us, brings a sense of grandeur to his symphonic cues and the right type of melancholy to the piano pieces. It adds up to a score which supports the dichotomy of Frank's public persona versus the really troubled man underneath. Janney's first line says so much about the themes of this film, "A wise woman once said, it's not having what you want, it's wanting what you got". We all want nice things in life whether it be a nice place, a comfortable car, exotic travels, a healthy and happy family, to name a few. Sometimes we may ask ourselves what we would compromise in order to have our riches. Are we entitled to them? Do they make us happy? Bad Education, a perfect microcosm of our world today, seems to be saying that it doesn't matter. Maybe wanting is everything.
    Glenn G Super Reviewer
  • Apr 26, 2020
    With the limited number of new releases lately, I was glad to see that HBO was releasing Bad Education. I didn't get the chance to catch it at the festivals last year, but it has now had its at-home premiere. I went into this film fairly blind, considering I had no prior knowledge of these events. After ready the premise of the movie and hearing that it was a true story, this movie became a must-watch for me. For the most part, I was riveted by this film and I feel that a lot of people will be as well, especially if great performances help your enjoyment.  In the Roslyn school district in Long Island, New York, money has been used for many things, other than for the school district itself. This lead to the discovery of the largest embezzlement scandal in history. As this film unfolds, you learn that there is more than meets the eye to pretty much everyone involved. Hugh Jackman portrays Frank Tassone, the superintendent, and Allison Janney portrays the mysterious Pam Gluckin, who's well-intentioned actions pretty much ruin her life. These two performances light up the screen, so throughout any minor dull moments, the two of them kept me engaged.  This film wouldn't exactly unravel the way it did without the supporting cast either though. In particular, Geraldine Viswanathan as Rachel Kellog, a nifty student who can see through anything, delivers the best performance I've seen from her yet. Her wits scare most of the employees of this school district and that was one of the more interesting aspects of the story for me. This film is really all about how a scandal can ruin many lives, but there's a lot more here to enjoy than that, especially if you're a fan of film in general.  Proving that he was both a talented writer and director with his work on the film Thoroughbreds, I've been eagerly awaiting Cory Finely's next project. The very obvious fact that he works closely with his performers is not lost in this movie, as he brings out the best in everyone involved. Bad Education only furthered my appreciation for this filmmaker. While he has yet to blow me away, I've really enjoyed both of his outings for many reasons. This is a talented filmmaker that I believe more people should be keeping an eye on.  In the end, Bad Education benefits from a meaty story that keeps you on the edge of your seat. That wouldn't have been possible without some fantastic dialogue written by Mike Makowsky, so he deserves some recognition here as well. This cast hardly ever misses the mark on any of their projects, so I wasn't all that surprised to see them being great here as well. The only way I can see people not liking this film is if they find the material itself boring, but I thought, much like the film The Social Network, that the screenplay is what made this movie so good, to begin with. Now available on HBO, I recommend checking this one out.
    KJ P Super Reviewer

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