CHENNAI: Education has often attracted financial scandals, especially in countries such as India, where teachers are underpaid and overworked. And America, despite being a top first-world state is no exception – as it would appear in director Cory Finley’s “Bad Education,” now streaming on Disney Plus Hotstar.
Shockingly, the corruption runs deep, and Finley bases his work on a real 2002 incident in which the very foundations of education are questioned.
School superintendent Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman) and his assistant, Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney), have been entirely responsible in taking Roslyn School High in Long Island to the fourth position.
This had helped Roslyn students to clinch seats in some of the most renowned universities and also up property prices in the district. But Tassone and Gluckin are hand-in-glove in embezzling millions of dollars from school funds, paid by taxpayers. That is until a Skywalk proposal lets the cat out of the bag.
Student, Rachel Bhargava (an impressively calm and collected Geraldine Viswanathan), doing the usual descriptive piece for the school’s in-house paper, The Hilltop Beacon, stumbles upon irregular expense accounts – her curiosity having been aroused by Roslyn’s undue interest in the Skywalk construction while paying no heed to the school’s leaking roof.
She is also egged on by an unsuspecting Tassone – who views Rachel as a kid excited about seeing her byline in the paper. He tells her in their first meeting that anything can be turned into a good story. And she goes beyond the puff taking audiences along with her.
Finley, who came on the scene with his debut “Thoroughbreds,” showed promise, and raised expectations that here was a director worth looking out for. He does not disappoint in his latest outing, although he has a step or two to go before he can be called someone who has truly arrived.
He narrates an actual school scandal that happened in a very subtle sort of way, and though the movie is largely dialogue-driven, he manages to keep our attention riveted until the end.
Jackman is superb, hiding behind a veneer of sophistication, charisma and charm in his not-so-noble mission to pay for his lavish lifestyle that includes designer suits and exotic holidays.
Janney is as sinister, pushed by greed and her family’s never-ending demands. And completing the triangle is Viswanathan, who in her school-girlish innocence and excitement stumbles upon a dark secret, while keeping her anger in check.