Netflix: The College Admissions Scandal
Published on March 15th, 2021
When the Stanford University sailing team coach became the first defendant to be sentenced in the 2019 college admissions bribery scandal, the incident became an unavoidable story in our sport. From March through December 2019, Scuttlebutt published 12 reports on the topic, and now a Netflix documentary titled Operation Varsity Blues, out March 17, revisits the 2019 bribery story.
In the dramatizations, Matthew Modine plays Newport Beach college-admissions counselor Rick Singer, who pled guilty to racketeering and money laundering charges and cooperated with the sting that ensnared parents including Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.
From his documentaries titled Fyre and Tiger King to Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond (about Jim Carrey and his Andy Kaufman portrayal in Man on the Moon), director and producer Chris Smith handles this film in a unique way. There’s plenty of news footage from the scandal and the prerequisite talking heads, but the reenactments do not consist of shadows or no-name actors.
Smith also found the FBI taped phone calls between Singer and his clients fascinating. “These phone calls portrayed the truth in a more genuine way because they were often being recorded without the participants knowing. You’re getting a window into a world that you may not normally see.”
The interviews with former Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer are jarring because the actual person (not an actor playing him) is explaining his interactions with Rick Singer. The coach’s recollections coupled with actual footage of Singer, Olivia Jade, and the other parties involved in the scandal overshadows any reenactment.
The examination goes beyond the celebrity-driven headlines and dives into the methods used by to persuade his wealthy clients to cheat an educational system already designed to benefit the privileged.
Here’s the official Netflix trailer: