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KPCW sends its most discerning moviegoers to the movies each week to let you know which films are worth going to, and which are a pass. The Friday Film Review airs after the Noon News at 12:30PM and during The Local View. KPCW Friday Film Reviewers are: Barb Bretz, Rick Brough, Mark Harrington, Linda Jager.

Friday Film Review--"Bad Education"

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Just how far would a school superintendent go to lock in his district’s top 10 ranking in the nation?  That’s the question behind “Bad Education”, a new crime thriller based on a true story. Linda Jager is here with this week’s Friday Film Review.

Breaking the story of a massive embezzlement scheme in your own school district isn’t what you’d expect to find in a high school newspaper, but that’s the true story behind "Bad Education"- a new crime thriller that premiered on HBO this week.

Starring Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney, "Bad Education" chronicles the largest public school fraud in U.S. history when over $11 million was stolen from the Roslyn School District - one of the most affluent and prominent communities on Long Island.

Jackman plays Dr. Frank Tassone, the beloved school superintendent who led the district’s meteoric rise to the top of national school rankings. The film opens in 2002, when Tassone is being lauded for the high school’s numerous accolades- exceptional graduation rates, a quarter of the students heading to Ivy League schools, and the resulting rise in property values thanks to a top notch school district.

Tassone is universally well respected - from staff and school board members to students and their parents. He was known for taking time to engage with students and making each student feel they were exceptional. 

Tassone’s deputy - Pam Gluckin, played in a strong performance by Janney - was the mastermind behind the school’s finances, and ultimately the embezzlement. Contrary to Tassone, she was driven and determined to push through pricey school improvements and non-essential expenses.

Enter Rachel, the curious sophomore reporter (played Geraldine Viswanathan) who stops by Tassone’s office to get some pull quotes for fluff piece she’s writing for the school paper on a proposed breezeway expansion for the high school. In mentoring mode, Tassone encourages Rachel to take her assignment more seriously and as an opportunity to hone her journalism skills.

Following a stonewalled follow-up interview with Gluckin, Rachel decides to dig deeper into the district's spending and discovers millions of dollars in hidden expenses buried in the school’s administrative archives. 

What happens next is the fascinating unraveling of the multi-year larceny scheme with enough shocking twists and turns to keep you glued to your TV screen.

"Bad Education" was written by Mike Makowsky, a former Roslyn student who was in middle school when Tassone was finally arrested in 2004. The film was directed by Cory Finely, who made his film debut at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival with the dark high school thriller "Thoroughbreds".

Following the trend of true crime thrillers dotting the offerings on streaming entertainment platforms, "Bad Education" rises to the top as a well acted, well written and well directed story of a win at all costs community and the extreme -and illegal -lengths the characters will go to maintain a successful facade. 

Following its debut at the 2019 Toronto Film Festival, "Bad Education" is now showing on HBO. Running 108 minutes, and not rated, "Bad Education" is definitely a film worth watching.

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