I think this is my first time reviewing a original HBO film or a movie that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and then was bought and released by HBO. One of the two, but I know this is my first time reviewing something like this as I had to add an HBO tag to it. Anyway, that was off topic, BAD EDUCATION is a fantastic movie, and dare I say, the best original film to premiere on HBO…ever. Well, from what I’ve seen anyway, you may know of something better. The film is based on a true story and it follows the largest public school embezzlement in American history and the beloved superintendent of New York’s Roslyn school district and his staff become the prime suspects. Some are saying its a dark comedy while others are saying its a dramedy, where I saw a straight drama with just a unintended absurd joke here and there that may or may not have been intended to be funny. Whatever you want to categorize the film as, it is great and you should watch it. And you should watch it without watching any footage of it whatsoever, trailer or tv spot, and definitely do not read HBO’s log line of it right before you hit play as I think it ruins some of the fun. It is absolutely downright shocking how much some of these people got away with for so long in this movie and it all came crashing down because of one pep talk and one sibling being a real motherfucking idiot.
The film stars the fantastic Hugh Jackman and also features Alison Janney and Ray Romano. Jackman plays the superintendent who wants his school, Roslyn, to be number one in the country and/or state (I forget which because I don’t think it was exactly said and/or I missed it?) with ivy league college acceptances of highschoolers. So much so that when one of the people in his administration is outed as embezzling money from the school, he wants it taken care of quietly as to not out the school to the public. Part of his problem? A junior in the high school paper that decides to not do just a new puff piece of this school “skywalk” project and instead she digs a little into the school’s pending budget. If I say anymore I’ll ruin it, but just trust me, the movie is fantastic. I was enthralled from beginning to end, and I don’t think I looked or played on my phone once during the movie. That’s saying something. Now while realistically speaking, the film is directed well by Cory Finley, stylistically wise it is kind of a let down when comparing it to his first feature film debut Thoroughbreds, which had more of a artistic flare so to speak. This film seems like anyone could’ve just pointed and shot it with a gritty filter to make the film feel dated even though it takes place in 2002. But I will say that with that movie and this in tow, he is definitely a A+ solid actor’s director.
Because the performances make this film fantastic. Everyone does a great job. Alison Janney is reliable as always, Ray Romano keeps proving that he was too good for his own sitcom all those years ago, and that Hugh Jackman has a hell of a career post Wolverine. While I wouldn’t say that this is his best performance (will always think it’s Logan, sorry) it is pretty damn close, making us feel for the character, yet questioning his every move and reasoning behind it throughout the film. The script is nice, tight, smart, witty, and concise and the film moves at a very legitimate pace. Not too fast where it feels like the whole thing was rushed and not too slow where it would just bore the viewer with too much information. Instead the movie does the very smart thing where it doesn’t just tell, it shows, and that makes all the difference in the world with some movies. I think HBO is offering a bunch of its content for free right now and I believe this is a part of that package. So if you can find HBO or HBONow or HBOGO I would highly recommend you check this out if you have the time. The whole movie has a very well placed message in the aftermath of such a huge scandal such as that one and it doesn’t bonk you over the head with it every few minutes. Bad Education contains good education on what definitely NOT to do in such a huge position of power. Karma is definitely hiding just around the corner.