Written by Luke Barnes
Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal is a drama documentary film based on real events, told using dramatic recreations and talking head interviews with those involved. The film explores the issues surrounding the college admissions scandal that saw a number of rich and in some cases famous people face jail time after bribing college officials to allow their children entry into the most prestigious universities in the United States.
Much like Netflix’s Fyre documentary this film will see you laughing and taking a small amount of joy out of seeing these privileged people be reminded that the rules do apply to them, and that they can’t just do what they want.
Also much like Fyre this documentary is fairly trashy and salacious, making sure to cram in and shame as many famous faces as it possibly can during its runtime, which is not inherently a bad thing more so it places this film firmly in the category of junk food documentary.
Something that bothered me about this film is the way they structure the ending sequence. As is fairly common practice the ending of a documentary usually features some text about ongoing events or updates that have happened since filming. This film decides to list the legal sentences that each culprit got instead, which is a novel idea, however, where it goes wrong is that in some cases certain people hadn’t been convicted or tried by the time of filming, and as such when the film shows them in the end credits it just says how they pled and not the conviction, which becomes jarring and confusing quickly.
Another thing that is quite confusing about this film is the use of recreations and talking head interviews, as we will be shown the real perpetrators on screen in an image but then for the purpose of the film be shown an actor standing in for the person, as they clearly didn’t want anything to do with the documentary, this again becomes confusing. More so when the film starts to blend the lines of based on true events drama and a standard documentary.
Overall, Matthew Modine sinks into his role as the mastermind of the scheme, Rick Singer and there is a lot of interesting and infuriating fun to be had here, however, several artistic choices hurt the film and I think the concept as a whole should have been better refined and adapted, the talking heads and the recreations together don’t work.
A few interesting points raised
An incomplete ending
The format doesn’t work as the recreations frequently clash with the talking heads
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