“BAD EDUCATION”— A Portrait of Greed


A Portrait of Greed

Amos Lassen

Dr. Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman), superintendent of the Roslyn, Long Island school district is personable, beautifully groomed, loved by everyone and responsible for getting the district ranked number four in the state. He must  also cover up a potential scandal that could destroy the school board’s budget— assistant superintendent Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney) has been embezzling from the district for years. To complicate matters further and a school newspaper reporter, Rachel Bhargava (Geraldine Viswanathan), is looking for a story and sniffing around and this could bring the operation to light.

“Bad Education” gives an unattractive look of its main characters. Using muted colors, the wrinkles on the actors’ faces are prominent in close-ups. Their actions are unflattering and the extravagance of the town’s embezzlers is clear through their house renovations, pieds-à-terre, first-class flights, facelifts, and more—all paid for by the school and written off as some ambiguous charge from a suspicious company.

By probing the truly thankless task of teaching kids while fighting for district rankings, school board demands, and antagonistic parents, the film gives us educators like Gluckin and Tassone with sincerity and dedication to their jobs and who remember their students’ names, their parents, hobbies, and the siblings of all the kids who come through Roslyn.

There is more to Tassone than his composed exterior suggests. The embezzlers are clearly in the wrong, their justifications are not so easily shaken off. The director of the school board (Ray Romano) makes seven figures selling real estate with values directly tied to the success of Roslyn as the teachers and administrators are underpaid and overworked. Instead of a straightforward parable of greed, we see the true events with depth and ambiguity. Excellent acting, useful moral lessons, proof that indiscriminate criminality can take place anywhere.  

 Tassone had even more going on in his private life than Gluckin— he lived in a wonderful apartment in Manhattan with one man while owning a house in Las Vegas, NV where another man, an exotic dancer, was there and waiting for his frequent visits and paid for by his pretending to attending school-related-conferences. Everyone believes Tassone’s story of a brief marriage to a woman who died at an early age.  He also used his illicit gains to buy a flashy wardrobe, a couple of trips to London on the Concorde, and other material gains through illegal activities including padded-expense-accounts and authorizing money to vendors who didn’t exist. Tassone seemed to be far-removed from any of this by putting up an effective façade of intense personal care for all of his students, their parents, teachers and administrators.

This is anentertaining, thought-provoking movie with sharp dialogue and outstanding performances and who cannot love Hugh Jackman portraying a gay male?