Talk about being hoisted on your own petard, 3.5 readers.
Dr. Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman) is a superhero of a superintendent, having taken the once lowly Rosslyn school district in New York all the way to being the #4th highest ranked district in NY state. He does this by handling himself like a politician – fancy suits, plastic surgery, lots of glad handing, lots of charm, all designed to garner public support and get his initiatives done.
The town’s politicians couldn’t be happier, as the school’s high status has caused property values to skyrocket with lots of wealthy folk willing to move to town so their kids can attend the school system, willing to make the longer commute in NYC just to do so.
Thus, if you owned property in Rosslyn prior to all this, and then saw your property value go up, you made a lot of money, ergo, the community is pretty much willing to rubber stamp anything their rock star superintendent wants.
Tassone’s achievements are great that he’s been interviewed all across the media, newspapers and television, and his wall is lined with photos of himself being congratulated by celebrities.
All this comes crashing down because…he had to go and encourage a student. That’s what any good educator does, right? Part of his routine is to urge students to do their best, so when high school newspaper reporter Rachel interviews him for what she refers to as a “puff piece,” about a skywalk project that would lead to the construction of an 8 million dollar walkway to connect school properties, Tassone encourages her to think bigger, to give the story her all.
Rachel, who at first, never took her participation in the paper seriously, seeing it as just an elective hoop to jump through, rolls up her sleeves and starts digging, all the way until she uncovers the most massive school embezzlement scandal in US history.
I can’t help but think that Tassone wishes he’d just allowed Rachel to stick with her phone it in attitude. Instead, Rachel learns that the superintendent has created multiple phony companies, charging off big bucks for expenses the district never incurred, using the money instead for his personal benefit, plastic surgery being the most expensive of his vices.
Believe it or not, this is the school’s second embezzlement scandal. The first involves Asst. Supt. Pamela Gluckin (Allison Janney), Tassone’s right hand who has embezzled plenty of her own. When she is caught, town fathers, led by School Committee President Bob Spicer (Ray Romano doing some serious dramatic acting) are talked into sweeping it under the rug by Tassone, who argues the kids will be unfairly punished when all the school’s awards and accolades are taken away.
Alas, once Spicer and the school board agree to make it all go away quietly, they essentially become complicit, and look like fools asleep at the switch when Tassone’s malfeasance is discovered.
Oddly enough, as bad as these actions are, the filmmakers manage to still make you feel bad for Tassone. He is, very much like a politician and expected to do a politician’s work but lack’s a politician’s resources to pay for it all. You can’t be ugly and shoddy looking when you give rousing speeches on behalf of your school district, after all. Eh, but then you are snapped back into reality when you see that school buildings are falling apart while he’s getting facelifts on the taxpayer’s dime.
Kudos to the teenage reporter who dug it all up first, beating the state and national media to the punch.
STATUS: Shelfworthy. A bit dry, boring at times, though the scandal itself is salacious, the details behind it are yawn inducing, so I give credit to the film makers for making scenes about a kid pouring through mounds of financial documents fun.