Talk About the Money – Bad Education (BFI London Film Festival Review)

Rating:

Based on the real story involving a superintendent stealing money from a school district over the years and how it was uncovered by a student journalist for the school paper.

Frank Tassone, the superintendent that made his school district number four in the state, is charming, fair and inspiring, basically everything you’d want in a person in that high ranking position. His vice superintendent, Pam Gluckin, is as charismatic as he is, except that she and to an extent, her family have been using the school district’s credit card for years and have essentially stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars. The scandal is bigger than anyone could have thought and the disbelief that it could be worse is swept under the carpet.

The behaviour of those involved is comically brilliant. Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney are perfectly cast as friends, with more in common than they think, and later, separately battling with their past mistakes. The comedy is dark and to the point, making the few tender moments in the film grounded in reality. Once the whole truth is revealed, there is no escape for anyone who is even remotely involved, showing how no one gets away with misdeeds.

The fact that Tassone is the one who encourages the student journalist to write a story rather than making her write a puff piece is perfect irony. She follows the story and decides to reveal far more than she could have for seen. Tassone’s encouraging nature and desire to make his district great feels genuine if it wasn’t for the millions he had stolen or the lies he told. Instead of this being a scandal slowly unfolding, its really just a realisation that even if someone seems like the nicest person in the world, they are probably hiding a secret that outweighs the kindness. A brilliant observed story based on a true story that is refreshingly darkly funny as well as excellently performed.

Dir: Cory Finley

Prd: Fred Berger, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Julia Lebedev, Mike Makowsky, Oren Moverman, Eddie Vaisman

Scr: Mike Makowsky

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Allison Janney, Ray Romano, Geraldine Viswanathan, Alex Wolff, Kayli Carter, Rafael Casal

DoP: Lyle Vincent

Music: Michael Abels

Year: 2019

Country: USA

Running time: 103 minutes

Bad Education is being screened at BFI London Film Festival 2nd – 13th October

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