The world has always pictured Hugh Jackman as Wolverine— the growling, short-tempered, cigar-smoking, jacked mutant with adamantium claws. And with ‘Bad Education’, we see a different side of the Australian actor. Jackman’s superintendent Frank Tassone is seen as a slick, wide-grinning man who loves to spritz some expensive cologne, just so that he could mask a dark side of him, as Director Cory Finley’s film offers a crisp and moving narration of the 2000 scandal where a former superintendent of schools in Rosyln, New York plead guilty of stealing $2 million.
Tassone’s character gets a detailed introduction pretty early in the film. This is a man who, apart from taking meticulous care of his personal appearances much like Christian Bale’s Patrick Bateman in ‘American Psycho,’ also maintains a keen and earnest interest in the names of students—former and present — and parents who come to him with issues. Over the course of the movie, it gets pretty clear that this is a facade; however, Jackman’s Tassone does an impeccably great job at it. Call it getting into character, as he even gives a quote and sort-of inspirational advice to local school journo, Rachel Bhargava (Geraldine Viswanathan).
It is actually ironic that it is actually Rachel who puts Tassone in soup much later. For those unfamiliar with the character, she was the real-life journalist who was instrumental in breaking the story of the unbelievable scandal. ‘Bad Education’ has this knack of convincing the audience of what a slick customer Tassone actually is. He plays his cards close to his chest and manages to keep people happy. One of the instances sees his second-in-command Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney) caught red-handed for putting her hands into the district finances. It is revealed she’s spent more than $200,000.
Tassone manages to negate the impact, but it costs Pam the job and for a while, it does appear that she was the culprit behind all of this. Call it a sharp satire, but Finley’s film is what it is. Should we try and decode the film, Tassone should have best left Rachel alone instead of trying to give a pep-talk about true journalism when all she was actually doing was writing a puff piece on the sky bridge. All that was needed was a quote from him, and while he does give her one, he also offers an unwarranted piece of advice that sets the ground cracking beneath his feet.
It is safe to say that Jackman shoulders this real-life drama. His tranquil charm, smooth mannerisms, and tone erase all doubts of what the man’s actually done. There’s a shade of sincerity, a touch of honesty and plenty of goodwill — or at least that is the projected image — but Jackman brings all these emotions to life with the utmost ease. It’s almost comical when he drinks his smoothies and innocently says, “I’d kill for some carb” in one of the scenes in the film. Janney richly complements Jackman’s performance.
‘Bad Education’ is another classic example of a fine actor who displays his performing chops after starring in superhero films for close to a decade. Add to this, dramas like ‘The Greatest Showman’, ‘Prestige’, and ‘Les Miserables’ are a great way to show the world that Jackman is more than just Wolverine. The film as a whole is a breeze, with a runtime of close to 110 minutes, and there isn’t a moment where you feel the need to shift in your seat to stretch. With a blend of comedy, darkness, and sympathy, ‘Bad Education’ serves as a complete package and a tight and point narration of a real-life scandal.