The times they are a-changin. Bad Education was the biggest sale of last year’s Toronto International Film Festival and features Hugh Jackman’s best ever performance, but will never screen in cinemas, and isn’t eligible for Oscars, even after the Academy changed the rules this year. Instead, the film chose to stream first on HBO (and, a week later, on Showmax in South Africa) – a decision that Variety describes as “a sign of the future… a game-changer, a cutting-edge example — or maybe you could call it a casualty — of the shifting sands of movie distribution,” where great movies will compete “not for the Oscars but for the Emmys.”
Bad Education is based on the real-life scandal that went down at writer Mike Makowsky’s high school, where the single largest public school embezzlement scheme in American history was uncovered – by a student journalist, no less. What’s more, as the movie tells it, she was encouraged in her investigation by the school supervisor, a dedicated and highly respected educator, and the very man her article would ultimately land behind bars.
In the lead role of charismatic school supervisor Dr Frank Tassone is Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winner Hugh Jackman (The Greatest Showman, Les Misérables, X-Men). Oscar, Golden Globe and seven-time Emmy winner Allison Janney (I, Tonya, Mom, The West Wing) and Golden Globe nominee and Emmy winner Ray Romano (The Irishman, Everybody Loves Raymond) co-star. The cast also includes MTV Movie + TV Awards nominee Alex Wolff (Hereditary), Geraldine Viswanathan (Miracle Workers), and Kathrine Narducci (The Irishman, Godfather of Harlem).
“I know the film is called Bad Education,” Makowsky told Vanity Fair, “but it’s a bit of a misnomer…. I had an incredible education there. And I think it’s in large part, strangely, due to this man, Frank Tassone… It was a… complicated, awful thing: this very affable, charismatic person who placed a real emphasis on the quality of education and helping students, then at the same time, you hear that he’s been taking money from the coffer and was part of this $11.2m scheme. It really shocked everyone…”
“I think that’s what drew me to it,” says Jackman. “How can people who spend their lives dedicated to kids and education end up going so far off the rails? How does that little white lie or whatever it began with snowball?”
Bad Education, which premiered to critical acclaim at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival and has had a similar reception on HBO, has a 93% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Much of that praise is for Jackman. Rolling Stone calls it “a career-best performance”, Variety says “it’s the best work he’s ever done”, and awards-watch site Gold Derby calls both Jackman and Janney “strong contenders” for the Emmys, where they predict Bad Education will be “a major Emmy contender in the race for Best TV Movie.”
As Time Magazine put it, “HBO’s gripping Bad Education tells the story of a truly epic scam… It’s fun to put ourselves in the hands of expert bamboozlers, and in Bad Education, Janney and Jackman are exactly that… These are people we can’t trust, played by actors we trust implicitly.”
Watch Bad Education on Showmax: www.showmax.com/eng/movie/ybtxzbg5-bad-education