Review by Sean Boelman
Thoroughbreds director Cory Finley has refused to experience a sophomore slump with Bad Education, a relentlessly entertaining political dramedy that is more lively than anything to have come out this year so far. With plenty of twists and turns, this film is both witty and crowd-pleasing enough to almost certainly catch the eyes of Emmy voters.
Based on a true story, the movie explores the largest public school embezzlement scandal in history as the district’s popular and successful administrators find their hard work being dragged down alongside their reputations. It’s the type of story that’s so unbelievable it has to be true, and it’s absolutely fascinating as a result.
The pacing of the film is done in a way as to make the story as compelling and cinematic as possible. There’s a darkly comedic edge to the movie that goes a long way in making the political message hit a lot harder. Clocking in at right around an hour and forty five minutes long, the film hits the ground running and only gets crazier from there.
The movie’s message about corruption is definitely very interesting because it takes a very unusual approach to the topic. Whereas most films about corrupt public officials present them in a light that isn’t too favorable, this movie shows them as flawed but sympathetic characters that should be examined, not chastised.
With this, writer Mike Makowsky offers a glimpse into why people will commit such seemingly unethical actions such as this. Perhaps the most interesting argument made by the film addresses the significance of intent. Even with no malice involved, the action is still wrong and can have a negative impact beyond what one would expect.
The greatest highlight of the movie is certainly its phenomenal ensemble. Hugh Jackman is at his career best as the film’s protagonist, giving a performance that is both endlessly charming and layered with nuance and emotion. The supporting cast that surrounds him is also great, featuring excellent turns from Allison Janney, Ray Romano, and Geraldine Viswanathan.
On a technical level, Finley’s style is certainly very kinetic, and that translates into a movie that feels completely alive. The cinematography is extremely dynamic, which is surprising given the fact that the film is so heavily rooted in dialogue. The score and sound design are also wonderful, doing a nice job of setting the jovial mood that will soon be destroyed.
Bad Education solidifies Cory Finley as one of the most intriguing new directors on the scene right now. Thanks to his exciting directorial choice and some of the most awards-worthy performances of any movie released on television this season, this will almost certainly hold up as one of the best films of the year.
Bad Education airs on HBO on April 25 at 8pm ET/PT.