Bad Education is one of those based-on-a-true-story movies that are often hampered by the need to stick to the story. Of course, I usually complain when the story is fundamentally changed in these pictures, so I can't really hold it against Bad Education that it seems to be reasonably close to what actually happened. What lifts the film above the norm are the performances of Hugh Jackman and Alison Janney in the leads, and Geraldine Viswanathan as an intrepid high-school reporter.
Viswanathan's character is enjoyable partly because the part of a reporter who digs up the truth seems particularly precocious when that reporter is a junior in high school. Jackman and Janney are excellent in their own roles, but Jackman really stands out because he delivers on the potential of the role as written. He plays a popular school superintendent, Frank Tassone, with the kind of charisma Jackman is capable of. The story takes its first turn when it turns out Janney's assistant superintendent has been embezzling money from the school district. Tassone saves the day, but the story has only just begun. Over time, we realize there is a lot more to Tassone than meets the eye. And it is here that Jackman shines, for we in the audience are as susceptible to his charm as the townspeople are to Tassone's. Jackman gives us a complicated man who seems only partly aware of his complications, even as he compartmentalizes his life.
It is perhaps a sign of how good Jackman is that the real-life Frank Tassone is said to have found Jackman's portrayal on target (OK, who wouldn't like having Hugh Jackman playing him in a movie), even as Tassone found some elements of the script to be false. It's as if Jackman was even able to charm the man he was playing.
There isn't anything special going on in Bad Education, but it works, and that's good enough.