This is one of the few real-life stories that I didn’t want to research beforehand because I thought it was a simple embezzlement movie in the vein of 1999’s ‘Election.’ I was completely wrong about the “simplicity” of the scheme since it turned out to be based on the largest public-school embezzlement in American history.
Superintendent Dr. Frank Tassone, Hugh Jackman (“Logan“, “The Greatest Showman”) wants Roslyn to be number one in the nation and can taste it now that Roslyn has become number four. Tossane is loved by the students, respected by the faculty, and wanted by some of the parents. He’s the Golden Child in Long Island and people believe that he could walk on water.
Student-reporter Rachel Bhargava, Geraldine Viswanathan (“Blockers”, “Hala”) is doing a puff piece on the school’s Skywalk being constructed soon but misses out on meeting Superintendent Assistant Pam Gluckin, Allison Janney (“I, Tonya“, “Mom (TV)”).
Tassone sees Bhargava and insists that he assist by answering Skyline questions, but once he senses a lack of care from Bhargava, he takes it upon himself in instill a sense of pride in her and make her believe in herself. Bhargava listens and begins an investigation in how much money is spent on the Skywalk. Her research begins to reveal secrets, lies, and the real intentions of those involved.
This is as far as I want to go into the story, because I really believe that the movie benefits on not knowing anything else about the story. Even the trailers were very short and secretive because the film loses it’s fun once you know the facts.
Writer Mike Makowsky (“I Think We’re Alone Now”, “Take Me”) was attending Roslyn Middle School when this whole thing transpired in 2004. Makowsky makes this film feel extremely personal as he actually met Tassone as a young age. What he and Director Cory Finley (“Thoroughbreds“) do extremely well is turn three point-of-views into one phenomenal linear story. Nothing feels boring nor do you want to skip over any of the characters. They draw you in with these situations that slowly reveal themselves in an excellent domino-effect type fashion.
Jackman owns this movie as he usually does with his films, but this character feels different. We have seen him be the antihero before as Wolverine in the ‘X-Men’ saga, and as egotistical in ‘The Prestige’ but this film shows the range he has to offer future films. Tassone always wants to impress those around him since he feels a lack of that within himself. Jackman plays with that internal battle onscreen beautifully.
Janney’s Gluckin comes in as second fiddle to Jackman’s Tassone, but of course Janney knocks it out of the park. She delivers a solid performance as someone that lets greed take over and takes no responsibility for her own actions.
Bhargava is also great, but her role mostly revolves around reacting to the craziness that she is discovering. She plays well against Jackman especially in her first and last scenes with him. She handles her emotional scenes with a quiet appreciation that is rarely seen by young actors.
Supporting cast including Ray Romano (“The Irishman“, “The Big Sick”) and Alex Wolff (“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”, “Hereditary”) don’t have too much to do, but each get their moment.
This film was a lot of fun and I really hope it gets the audience it deserves.