It seems like I write a lot of reviews of HBO shows, and I must admit that I believe their quality is still very high across the board. HBO is where this little gem of a movie snuck up on me, directed by Corey Finley and adapted by Mike Makowsky, unfortunately from a true story. The story involves a dramatization of the town of Roslyn, Long Island (NY) and a gigantic scandal involving embezzlement from the school budget in the early 2000’s.
The two main conspirators are assistant superintendent Pam Gluckin (Alison Janney) and Superintendent Dr. Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman). Tassone has turned the Roslyn High School into fourth in the nation in testing scores, and they are gunning for number one. This is the kind of school that feeds students straight to the Ivy Leagues, and the students (and over-concerned parents) are willing to overlook a lot in order to get their kinds in the right schools. Tassone’s overhaul has raised Roslyn property values considerably, and at first he appears to be a genuine, concerned, involved administrator.
Pam Glucken has control over the finances, but when her idiot son tries to do an overhaul on her beach house, he is caught using the school credit card - that Pam gave him. The ensemble cast of school administrators, led by an excellent Ray Romano, want to turn in Pam, but Frank argues it would ruin the school’s status. His impassioned speech convinces the administrators to do nothing for the good of the school, and Pam is forced out due to an ‘illness.’ She leaves Tassone a post-it saying “I’m not the sociopath here.”
Tassone, who claims to have a deceased wife, is shown on a Vegas trip hooking up and falling in love with a former student, a male ‘dancer.’ The frequency of his trips to Vegas intensify. Meanwhile, a reporter at the High School paper starts digging into the school finances and finds lots of unexplained money going out. She follows a check’s trail to a Manhattan building where Tassone lives with his partner of thirty-three years. Tassone is taking trips on the Concorde, getting facelifts, and buying a house in Vegas for his young lover. In one hilarious scene, middle aged Jackman is trying to dance with his young Vegas lover. While Jackman himself is a powerhouse song-and-dance guy, the character of Frank Tassone is geeky and awkward, and Jackman makes us believe it.