When I was a senior in high school, I applied and got in to a few colleges in the state. Nowhere too prestigious but I was proud of my accomplishments. After watching Operation Varsity Blues, I don’t know what I was thinking. If I had known THIS was an option, I would gotten a Bachelors at Harvard, a Masters at Yale, and maybe, if I was feeling crazy, a Doctorate at Cornell.
Operation Varsity Blues is a new documentary on Netflix. Based on the College Admissions scandal that was blown wide open about two years ago, the film tells its story in a unique way. Like many documentaries, the story is shown through interviews as well as clips. The clips used here are dramatic reenactments. A lot of times, those reenactments can be cheesy. Operation Varsity Blues, however, makes them really interesting.
A Unique Documentary
A big reason for this is because the main culprit, Rick Singer, is played by Matthew Modine. No disrespect to any documentary reenactors out there reading this, but Modine is a big get. At least for this kind of movie. Sure he is not as big of a star as he once was. But he is a recognizable face. Despite that, he transforms into Rick Singer. In doing so, he helps to guide us through what is ultimately a pretty convoluted scheme.
Through what I had read about the scandal and seen on the news, I thought I understood it. Turns out, I did not. Operation Varsity Blues does a great job at fully explaining exactly how the plot was carried out for years. It started innocently enough and quickly became a full blown crime. Utilizing actors to reenact the story, rather than using talking heads to walk us through news footage helps to paint a picture.
The Real Victims
Additionally, the filmmakers make sure to never lose sight of the real victims in this – the students who deserved a spot but didn’t get in. One of my favorite moments is at the beginning when it shows real footage of students finding out what college they got into. Some are thrilled to have been accepted, while others are crushed to learn they did not get into their dream school. The entitlement of those who engaged in this scandal is abhorrent.
Operation Varsity Blues is a frustrating, but important watch. To have so many people take advantage of a system that is already tipped in their favor is infuriating. The filmmakers do an excellent job of putting the scandal into context and framing those guilty as nothing less than that. While it might not have a whole lot of new information for those who followed closely, it is still worth a watch. For people, like me, who had a rough idea of the scandal, you haven’t seen anything yet!