This month marks the two-year anniversary of the college admissions scandal that rocked America’s educational system and made headlines worldwide, so it goes without saying that Netflix is ready to release a documentary about the sordid saga.
Hailing from Chris Smith, who directed the streamer’s Fyre Festival documentary, the appropriately titled Operation Varsity Blues aims to go beyond the celebrity-driven headlines and examine the methods used by Rick Singer, who will be played in reenactments — based entirely on FBI wiretaps — by Matthew Modine (Stranger Things).
Singer was at the center of the shocking scandal, as he offered guarantees to wealthy clients even though the education system in this country is already designed to benefit the privileged. Still, these parents couldn’t live with any margin for error, so they scammed their way via “side doors” like college sports by falsifying information about their children, many of whom had no idea they were being used as pawns in such a high-stakes game.
Using an innovative combination of interviews and narrative recreations of the FBI’s wiretapped conversations between Singer and his clients, Operation Varsity Blues offers a rare glimpse into the enigmatic figure behind a scheme that exposed the lengths wealthy families would –and will continue to — go to for admission into elite colleges, and angered a nation already grappling with the effects of widespread inequality.
Smith directed the documentary, which was written and edited by his Fyre collaborator Jon Karmen, and the two of them also produced the film with Youree Henley. Besides Modine, the reenactments also feature Josh Stamberg as Bill McGlashan, Wallace Langham as Gordon Caplan, and David Starzyk as Bruce Isackson.
Netflix will release Operation Varsity Blues on March 17, and this is one true-crime documentary that I, along with millions of others, can’t wait to check out. Interest is going to be sky-high for this film, and while I’m torn on its use of starry reenactments, they seemed to work out well for last year’s Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma.