Bad Education (2020)
Director: Cory Finley
Writer: Mike Makowsky
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Allison Janney, Geraldine Viswanathan, Alex Wolff, Rafael Casal, Stephen Spinella, Annaleigh Ashford, and Ray Romano
Plot: A couple of high ranking school officials are brought down when it’s discovered that they’ve stolen huge sums of money from the budget.
Review: The best way I can think of to pitch HBO’s Bad Education is “Think All the President’s Men but in highschool.” Because that’s a lot like this feels like. It’s Watergate, but on a much smaller scale. If that sounds appealing to you, I’d definitely recommend this one. It’s a really fun, engaging watch.
Who doesn’t love a good scandal? I know I do. And this is a juicy one. It’s people stealing millions of dollars from the education system. And, not just anyone, the charismatic leaders who are supposed to have the best interest of the kids at heart. This story is interesting enough on its face value, but watching it unfold in front of you makes it all the more satisfying. It’s especially fun to see the characters try to wiggle themselves out of trouble.
Speaking of, these characters are great. I love Hugh Jackman’s performance in this. He plays a superintendent who the whole town seems to love. He’s radically improved the school district and looks cool doing it. He’s like James Bond, if 007 ever got into teaching. Even before the scandal broke, it was great to watch him work the room. He just had so much charisma. It’s no wonder he was able to hide the fact that he was a scumbag. Then, of course, it’s a joy to see him fall apart. Likewise, Allison Janney brings real humanity to this movie. She starts off just as cocky as he is, but getting busted hits her hard. By the movie’s end, you almost feel bad for her. Almost. These are two scumbag lowlifes, so it’s an incredible feat that you end up liking them at all.
I also really like the message Bad Education is sending. Like I said before, it’s the high school version of Watergate. There’s a reporter digging in, finding cases of corruption, and taking down the man. Power of the press! The only difference this time is that it’s set in a high school. It’s a school newspaper reporter that’s taking down the man, man. How cool is that? I wrote for the school newspaper. It’s fine for a bit of light, puff piece-y entertainment. I don’t know that we ever wrote anything of much importance, definitely not something this big. Like, damn. That’s quite the message to send out. I know it’s rated TV-MA but, if I were a journalism teacher, I’d love to show this in my class. It’s really freaking inspiring. And, in our world of scandal and attacks on the media, this was a welcome viewing experience.
Overall, I really enjoyed Bad Education. The story is good. The characters are fun. The moral of the story feels important today. And, it never feels like it’s preaching to you. It’s still a remarkably fun movie. It’s not my favorite movie of the year, but I don’t have any complaints either. I would definitely check it out on HBO when you get the chance.
TL;DR: Bad Education feels like a Watergate movie, but set in a high school with characters that are a lot of fun.
Score: 7/10 (Good)