A man runs a dirty business in the form of sending the children of the rich to the top universities in the United States. The trick (of course other than bribing insiders) is to fake the identities of prospective students, making them “fake athletes”, so that they can be accepted through sports.
The paragraph above is not the premise of a fictional film, but a real event, namely the scandal known as the “2019 college admissions bribery scandal”. This documentary, directed by Chris Smith (the filmmaker behind the documentary Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened) examines the modus operandi of the perpetrator, as well as criticizes the dilapidated American education system (an issue that has been targeted by many documentaries). Top Movie Site
The culprit is Rick Singer, and since the opening sequence, the film immediately gives an idea of how Singer carries out his actions. Singer was involved in a telephone conversation with a client (read: parents of prospective students), discussing the amount of the “donation”. The client will pay a sum of money to Singer’s foundation under the guise of a donation, then he guarantees that their children will be accepted at any university. On the sidelines of the chat, we see a photo of a boy being fabricated. His face was taped to the body of a water polo athlete, as “proof” he was a real athlete. In fact, the boy had never played water polo in his entire life. Operation Varsity Blues immediately appeared binding from the first minutes.
Are there no suspicions? One or two parties are suspicious, but there is no guise of a consultant for prospective students, for more than two decades, Singer has been very neat in carrying out his actions. The client kept his mouth shut, as did the “insiders” as Singer’s accomplices. Not only because they receive profits, they also believe, this tactic is guaranteed to be successful and safe. Best Movie
Singer, as mentioned by several sources, is indeed an accomplished salesman. His persuasion abilities are extraordinary. Even when his resume is full of lies (claiming to be on the Starbucks board, claiming the company has branches all over the world, etc.), he is able to make it sound like a reality.
Even though his stature does not reflect the impostor figure, which can be seen from the reenactment scenes, with the script based on the FBI intercepted recordings of Singer’s phone calls. Matthew Modine plays Singer there, and through the actor’s solid acting, we can observe his figure. His face was stern, smiling rarely (like Clint Eastwood and Harrison Ford combined), but not intimidating. Plus the way he spoke was orderly, calm, and confident, it was understandable why so many people were willing to follow him.
Operation Varsity Blues actually does not present anything new. Although it does not only contain talking heads, the use of re-enactment is by no means a breakthrough. Even with a little effort, it is easy to find details of the case on the internet, or in other words, the film does not offer significant additional information. But Chris Smith, an experienced documentary maker, knows very well the power of the medium. A good documentary is not just a “copy” of the news. Through the visualization of Singer’s telephone recordings, Smith builds intensity. Gives an attraction, so that the audience’s learning process feels dynamic, even entertaining. Like lectures, this is an informative and fun class.
The further the case is investigated, the more surprising facts emerge. Whether related to Singer’s modus operandi (one of the most heinous is the exploitation of special access for people with learning disabilities, during the SAT test), or the names involved.
Of course Operation Varsity Blues condemns the perpetrators of this fraud. But the film is not naive. Smith is well aware that the root of the problem is much bigger. Singer was able to act because of the poor education system. The rottenness of the system has been so entrenched that it has developed into a culture. A culture in which the “best” campus is the prima donna, not for the sake of pursuing quality education, but for prestige (derived from the Latin “praestigium”, which means “illusion”). Prestige that only privilege owners can pursue. The prestige that shapes students’ perspectives, that in order to be successful, they must be accepted at a top university. If it fails, great pressure will hit, which has the potential to trigger mental disorders. The conclusion highlights that. This FBI operation cut only one branch. As long as the system is not fixed, “other Singers”, with possibly different methods, will continue to grow. Movie Review