7th October 2019 9.15pm at Odeon Leicester Square
8th October 2019 12.45pm at Odeon Leicester Square
9th October 2019 3.00pm at Vue West End
The fundamental failings of the American Dream, with all its institutional loopholes for those audacious enough to think they deserve to cheat the system, is hacked at again in Bad Education. And, in the wake of the current college admissions scandal that has put one desperate housewife behind bars, it’s both a satisfying and crushing example to add to the long list of rigged systems that allow those at the top to stay up in their ivory towers.
It’s 2002 and the Roslyn district in New York is slowly climbing the state’s school rankings. The constant refrain is, “A town is only as good as its public schools”. Hugh Jackman as Frank Tassone is a slicked-back-hair and pearly-white-smile kind of school superintendent. He is the mastermind ensuring his institutions get to the top and an emblem of everything right: glossy, well-to-do, an endless basin of snappy one-liners letting his students know that they too are beacons of untapped potential. In his fluorescent-lit office, his optimistic eyes conceal the black hearts operating one of the worst cases of the embezzlement of public school funds.
Mike Makowsky’s screenplay offers a weaving plot that manages, often at the expense of fleshing out its central characters, to extrapolate the many lives of its residents. Allison Janney as Pam Gluckin is a victim to this oversight. However, it ultimately works in the film’s favour – people can only be known as they present themselves publicly. As such, the story unravels only to slyly coil up again, starting fresh fires and pointing fingers in the opposite direction. In doing so, director Cory Finely acutely chisels away at his characters to reveal crumbled men rather than statues of excellence.
Geraldine Viswanathan plays Rachel, a probing student journalist, with delicate tenacity. How is she to do what’s right when the adult institutions seem to actively and persistently affirm the benefits of keeping quiet? Finely asks if there is any hope. Must the youth educate themselves to break the broken system?
Bad Education succeeds in exploring white privilege concealed by the community’s notion that they are “good people”. The cookie-cutter suburban lifestyle, decorated by high-school accolades and house extensions, is comically torn apart with nuance. The choral odes which soundtrack the educators’ fall from grace add to the impactful touches of dark humour. Just like the Rosalyn school district, this picture is really good, but never excels to greatness.
Bad Education does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.