The following review was written by Ultimate Rabbit correspondent Tony Farinella.
“Bad Education” is the kind of film that would have worked very well in theaters if not for the current Covid-19 pandemic based on the star power of its two leads, Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney. As a reviewer, however, I’m happy to watch it on any platform. As usual, HBO delivers quality programming which stands out from the pack. When it comes to delivering the goods, Jackman gives his best performance, in my opinion, as Dr. Frank Tassone.
When the audience first meets Dr. Tassone, he comes across as probably the nicest, most caring, and thoughtful superintendent known to mankind. He goes above and beyond for his students, the parents, and everyone who works for him. He is the definition of the first one in the building and the last one to leave. He’s also very particular about his weight, appearance, and presentation. But beneath all of this, there is a very dark side to him that is sociopathic, cunning, and very conniving. I can’t imagine too many actors would have been able to handle the juggling act of playing everyone’s favorite superintendent one minute and a conman behind closed doors the next as well as Jackman. Thanks to his hard work and the efforts of Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney), the Roslyn Union Free School District on Long Island is rapidly growing. The numbers are good, people are making money, and everyone is happy.
However, when it comes to handling success and money, all it takes is one slip up for everything to be exposed to the public. “Bad Education” is based on a true story, and it makes you, as an audience member, wonder how this could have happened and why it got so out of hand. I won’t spoil any of the details for you in terms of what happens to Pam Gluckin and Frank Tassone, but as they say, truth is stranger than fiction. This is a film I would have gladly paid money to watch on the big screen. There are moments of dark comedy in this adult drama, and they work perfectly. What makes it even more surreal is the fact their empire was brought down by a young journalism student played by promising young actress, Geraldine Viswanathan (“Blockers,” “Miracle Workers”). There is also great supporting work from Alex Wolff, Rafael Casal and Ray Romano.
However, there are two major reasons this film is such a success. One of the reasons is the performances from Janney and Jackman. Let’s focus on Janney first here, as she delivers a tough, no-nonsense performance. Pam is unapologetic about what she is doing, and Janney portrays this perfectly. Even when Pam is at her worst and it seems like the cards are stacked against her, Janney shows off a side of her that is not going to go down without a fight. Jackman gives a meticulous and detailed performance which does not have a single false note. Much like his character, every single aspect of his performance is well-thought out and serves a purpose. As mentioned earlier, it is the best Jackman performance I’ve ever seen. He can really do it all as an actor.
It was mentioned in the review that, as an audience member, you wonder how this successful school district allowed themselves to get so over-the-top with their own personal needs and financial gain. As noted on the back of the Blu-ray, it was the largest public-school embezzlement in U.S. history. The fact the characters are so fleshed out, and the story is told in such a smart, entertaining, and unique way just adds to your enjoyment level of this film. If you don’t have HBO, or even if you do, this is a film that is worth owning on Blu-Ray. It’s dramatic, sad, funny, and shocking.
* * * ½ out of * * * *
Blu-Ray Info: “Bad Education” comes to Blu-ray courtesy of Warner Brothers Home Entertainment. It is also available on DVD as well. “Bad Education” has a running time of 109 minutes and is not rated.
Video Info: The film is released on 1080p High Definition 16×9 2.4:1. While I was very happy to be able to watch and review this film on Blu-Ray, I must admit it is not a perfect Blu-Ray. During random scenes, there are moments of splotches and grainy images. While it is disappointing, Blu-ray is always my preferred method of viewing a film as opposed to DVD, so I was able to overlook it. For the most part, it is a stellar looking Blu-ray with minor flaws.
Audio Info: “Bad Education” comes on a DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 soundtrack with subtitles in English. The audio is superb on this release.
Special Features: The Blu-ray comes with three special features: “Based on a True Story,” “The Perception of Perfect,” and “Hugh Jackman & Allison Janney – Virtual Conversation.” My only problem with these special features is they are all under five minutes. I would have liked if they were a little bit longer as this is such a unique and compelling true story.
Should You Buy It?
“Bad Education” is a film I’ve been telling friends to see ever since I watched its debut on HBO a few months back. On a second viewing, I received even more enjoyment out of this film. As they say, the devil is the details, and this film touches on something that was completely unknown to me before watching it. After watching the film, it made me want to learn more about the true story behind it. If you are looking for a smart, funny and well-crafted adult drama with a lot of bite to it, you will enjoy the hell out of “Bad Education.” This is the type of smart entertainment HBO is known for, and they deliver the goods with this movie. I can’t say enough great things about the performances by the two leads, especially Jackman. At times, I felt sorry for Dr. Tassone, even though he is selfish, as Jackman brings a humanity to this character. This film is definitely worth owning and picking up on Blu-ray.
**Disclaimer** I received a Blu-Ray copy of this film from Warner Archive to review for free. The opinions and statements in the review are mine and mine alone.