Review of Bad Education written by Mike Makowsky and Robert Kolker, directed by Cory Finley Rating *****
This film could have devolved into a cast of stereotypes. A person entrusted with the finances of an entire school district betrays that trust and embezzles money to live beyond her means. It could have gone the other way and turn into a comedy as the woman, in this instance, an Assistant Superintendent, fails to cover her tracks. Instead, the filmmakers chose to tell a nuanced story involving real people with real conflicts.
There is one scene in the film, in particular, that shows how the screenwriters tackled this delicate balance. It involved someone beloved and respected by his peers. He tells a story of how it all started with a simple mistake of using the wrong credit card to buy a pizza. He realized the error after the fact and planned to correct it the next week. He never got around to fixing the mistake. More importantly, no one seemed to notice. You could almost see the wheels turning.
Another storyline that runs throughout the film involves a student reporter who, at first, claimed to be writing a “puff” piece about a planned construction project called the skywalk. It’s only because of her work that the true scope of the fraud becomes public.
Were the individuals involved in the misuse of funds bad people? Or was it a case of competent people who tried to justify their actions even when they knew what they were doing was illegal? The answer lies somewhere in between.
While the screenwriters deserve credit for laying the groundwork, the actors, including Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney, and director Cory Finley, pull the whole thing together to make it work. Don’t miss this one.