Bad Education (2019): TIFF Film Review
This review was filed from the Toronto International Film Festival.
When it comes to writing, Corey Finley knows that the hell he's doing. After spending many years as a playwright, the 30 year old writer and director broken into the film scene with one of 2018's freshest and boldest films, Thoroughbreds. The film was insanely unique, unbelievably crazy, and featured a brilliant final performance from Anton Yelchin. So, as expected, I was extremely excited to see what the director was brewing up next, and when I found it out it was a story about a school district scandal, I was insanely excited. After seeing the movie, I can confirm what might have seemed obvious: the film is awesome. It's a unique story told by a unique voice with a lot of distinct and amazing performances. And for that and more, this is a film worth watching, and a film that will buzz up a lot of conversation.
As stated in little detail above, the film tells the story of Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman), a Long Island school district superintendent who oversees one of the most successful locations when it comes to education. Frank feels like the perfect PR channel, every single one of his actions feel like a way to show the world that he knows what he's doing and that this isn't just a school district: it's his school district. His facade begins to crash when Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney), his coworker and friend, gets caught spending district money on personal luxuries, and from there, viewers watch Frank deals with the school district's scandals become more and more prominent, leading to anger, job losses, and lives ruined along the way. Bad Education is a serious story told in a fun, lively, and an action-packed way, showing just how talented Finley's writing can truly be.
The beauty of this story (among many other aspects) is that it's not really a story we see a lot on the silver screen - it takes common themes of cinema, like greed and corruption, and applies and works them into a story full of twists and turns. The film boasts an all-star cast, led by Jackman and Janney, who give the performances their all and really do an excellent job of sinking into the roles of Tassone and Gluckin. For both actors, it's weirdly a mix of characters we've seen them play a lot with actions none of their previous characters in other films would ever think of doing, which makes the film even more entertaining as viewers watch all the events unfold one after another. The real beauty of this film lies in it's screenplay, and the story it is based off of. It is one of those stories that is known to some, but so unknown to others that it honestly feels surprising that a film telling this story hasn't actually been made yet. The film is structured beautifully, and is filled with moments throughout that will make you laugh, that will make you gasp, and that will make you think about how crazy this film actually is.
The only major problem with the movie is that, at certain points, it feels like it's dragging on ever so slightly, but that is overshadowed by how top-notch everything else in the movie actually is - the performances are golden, the script is solid, and the direction is amazing. From the opening shot to the final shot, you may even realize that all of the characters you thought you knew at the beginning feel unnatural now, because of the levity of the situation and how each character arc is perfectly structured by Finley for strongest emotional impact. And even after the film credits come to a close, and your left with nothing but memory, it soon becomes obvious that this isn't a film that will be fading away from the headspace anytime soon, as its messages remain strong and will have you thinking about the practically all the time.
Through its pitch-perfect storytelling and messaging, Bad Education poses questions that no other film really ever asks: when does the power of school stop? When have schools gone too far? When the education stops, what happens next? And then, one step ahead of the game, the film answers those very same questions, taking a scenario that not many people really know anything about and showing why it's such an important story to the world. For that, and so much more, Bad Education is actually pretty good.