The Reel Review
Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney star in this HBO crime drama about the largest public school embezzlement in American history – the $11 million stolen from the Roslyn Union Free School District on Long Island, New York by superintendent Frank Tassone, his assistant Pam Gluckin, and various associates.
Geraldine Viswanathan (Blockers) plays the intrepid student reporter at Roslyn High’s Hilltop Beacon newspaper, whose 2004 investigative story ensnared the charismatic superintendent previously credited with making Roslyn High one of the best public schools in the nation. But despite having such incredulous subject matter and a stellar cast, Mike Makowsky’s script has an underwhelming, paint-by-numbers feel to it, that, while laudable for its accuracy, is shocking only in its dullness. As a result, director Cory Finley (Thoroughbreds) is never able to steer Bad Education out of the no-man’s land rut between comedy and drama.
Janney makes the most of a disappointingly scant role that, with just a bit more creativity and dramatic license (flashbacks, anyone?), could have been a real delight. Same goes for Jackman’s narcissistic superintendent, who, with his pressed suits and slicked-back hair, at least looks the part, even though seeing the conman’s house of cards collapse fails to really satisfy. Bad Education isn’t bad, it just could have been so much better.
• Bad Education screenwriter Mike Makowsky was a middle school student at Roslyn when the 2002 scandal broke.
• Although the student reporter character in Bad Education is a composite of several students, it was Rebekah Rombom’s story in Roslyn High’s Hilltop Beacon that captured the attention of The New York Times and other publications. Rombom currently lives in New York City and works as General Manager at an online education platform specializing in technology. Frank Tassone was released from prison in 2010, Pam Gluckin was released in 2011.
• Bad Education was filmed in Levittown, about a 20 minute drive from Roslyn High.