Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal - Netflix Film Review

★★★★

Directed by: #ChrisSmith

Written by: #JonKarmen

Starring: #MatthewModine, #RogerRignack, #JillianPeterson, #CourtneyRackley, #WallaceLangham

Netflix Film Review by Taryll Baker

Poster for Operation Varsity Blues

Reenactments drive this documentary investigating the mastermind behind a scam to get kids of rich and famous families into top US universities.


A sleazy suit who doesn’t wear suits, a huge scam, and lots of moving pieces. From the outset, Operation Varsity Blues is a speedy, hefty docudrama; real conversations have been scripted, combining those from different times for pacing and dramatic lift. We’re introduced to Rick Singer (Matthew Modine) through reenacted scenes — in fact, for the most part the entire film is dramatised — and then to his assistants, who managed to create an easy way-in for students from wealthy upbringings to get into the best universities in the US.


When you’re dealing with real-life exposé’s on this scale, it’s ideal that the archival or reenacted footage be highly interesting and presented not only in an easy-to-digest way, but also be somewhat enjoyable. Given this film’s focus on Singer and the scandal, it’s a pleasant surprise to see some spotlight shining on students and the ever-growing pressure that is continuously piled on top of them. Through real footage we see these kids talk about anxiety and how they’re literally breaking down because they’re so driven by the idea of being in their dream college. There’s a heightened aura of panic and heartbreak in the film and that directly and authentically reflects real life for students in the States.


Operation Varsity Blues excels in its approach and tackling of the scandal and all the little pieces that were being moved around by Singer. His lurking shadow over the people he seemingly controlled and influenced. There’s a likeness to The Social Network not only in the speedy pacing but the music supporting the narrative; a score produced by Atticus Ross, no less. Visually and musically this is quite an exciting film, and it really is more of a film than documentary even given that it’s a reenactment. There’s an arc for Singer, and Modine’s performance is underplayed in the best way. The atmosphere he brings to each “scene” is heavy, encapsulating the immoral and shady character of Singer.


The film ticks along at a continual pace that makes it tricky for the viewer to lose attention, and the information fed throughout is consumed well. It’s a shocker of a scandal if you’re unaware of what the details were, so to have this available in Netflix’s library is great. If you’re looking for some real-world situations embedded into a dramatised vision, then Operation Varsity Blues is the documentary film to watch.


Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal is now streaming on Netflix.

- #TaryllBaker