Bizarrely, novacane’s post about Bad Education (2004) is a shockingly good summary of my impressions of Bad Education (2019 - HBO Max). Except, I was baffled for a minute–before I saw the timestamp–about how I could have missed the “bare naked gay man ass”–although I was willing to entertain the idea that that’s what happened. If you see the movie, you might be expecting that at some point as well.
The top-line plot summary is that it’s the true story of the embezzlement of millions from a New York public school district. Not necessarily what you would expect to be an enrapturing film, but thanks to some strong direction that walks a tightrope between drama and comedy, and a number of top-notch performances, it is.
On those performances: When Allison Janney manages to get outdone, that’s pretty incredible (not her fault; the script–generally very good, especially structurally–should have given her more). The guilty parties here being Hugh Jackman in the lead role as the superintendent of the school district and the charming-as-hell Geraldine Viswanathan as a school new reporter.
Geraldine Viswanathan gets her own paragraph, because the work she does with her facial expressions in this film, and the understated comedy of her whole arc are perfection. And some of the more serious moments involving her family’s backstory–which the screenplay deftly weaves into the more central events–just give her even more pitches to knock out of the park. What is it about young actors out of Australia right now?? Anyway, looking her up, I learned she’s in Blockers, so now I clearly need to see that.
Hey, also, that guy who starred in American Vandal on Netflix has a small role in this. Nice seeing him again!
The movie unwraps the scandal in a very deliberate and very clever way. The order of events are linear, but the information is parceled out to the audience in a way that gives the plot the most engaging arc possible. I can imagine some folks feeling that it’s manipulative or dishonest, but that structure is really what allows the performances to excel. If you want the straight story, presumably you can read the New York Magazine article.
As novacane said (albeit about a different movie), there’s one or two not-as-perfect-as-the-rest choices near the end. But nevertheless, this is a film you might have missed or overlooked, but you shouldn’t any longer, as long as you have HBO Max.
UPDATE: Meant to call out the score by Get Out composer Michael Abels. There’s one scene in particular where the score is brilliant in its minimalist effectiveness.