The College Admissions Scandal (2019 Lifetime)
Cast: Mia Kirshner, Penelope Ann Miller, Sarah Dugdale
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Synopsis (via Lifetime)
Two wealthy mothers, Caroline (Miller), a sought after interior designer and Bethany (Kirshner), an owner of a successful financial services firm, who share an obsession with getting their teenagers into the best possible college. When charismatic college admissions consultant Rick Singer (Michael Shanks,Stargate: Atlantis, Saving Hope) offers a side door into the prestigious institutions of their dreams, Caroline and Bethany willingly partake with visions of coveted acceptance letters in their heads. But when Singer cooperates with the FBI and pleads guilty, the mothers who risked everything for their kids, must face the consequences of their crimes and the loss of trust and respect from their families.
We should say that the top that Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman are unfortunately not depicted in this movie. However, Lifetime did us a solid and cast a blonde and a brunette so we can pretend.
The movie starts off with parents being taken away by the police while title cards flash across the screen. Flash to March 2018, Brentwood CA. The blonde woman, who we will name… Not Felicity… Allegedly. (I mean Caroline!) Is obsessed with getting her son, Danny, into college. He is a musician and not that into school or the SAT’s.
Not Felicity meets with a mommy (and gay dad) group who are all trying to get their kids into college. Meanwhile, Not Lori Loughlin (I mean Bethany) is helping her daughter, Emma, with designing a website and picking an outfit for a fancy event with a college recruiter guy named Rick Singer.
Rick Singer does research on Not Felicity and Not Lori and realizes that they are loaded and influential people. He sets up meetings with the mothers and their kids. He convinces them that they are going to be able to get into one of the top US schools. He tells the kids to work on their branding and focus on their SAT prep.
6th months later, SATs have happened, and the mothers are disappointed to see the scores have not improved. Not Lori goes to the school and threatens to have the guidance counselor fired for repressing the 1%ers. Not Felicity yells at her son and calls him a stupid procrastinator.
Rick meets with Not Lori and Not Felicity and goes through the shady ways he can get their kids into Yale and Harvard. They agree to give him money to bribe the schools with a fake foundation for underprivileged schools. He also tells them that he will hire a kid to take the SAT’s for their kids. 150K for fake foundations and another 100K for the Fake SAT’s.
Our detectives with no backstory and another man with no backstory are in an interrogation room. The man offers to give information to the detectives. It involves “Money, Sports, Powerful families, and elite bastions of higher education.” He goes into meetings with a wiretap on.
Not Lori consults with Rick while making a kale smoothie. She is making 500K payment for him to make Emma look like she is a soccer player, and he will need Emma to speak to a therapist and convince them that she is stoopid. Not Lori tells Emma about the plan (in a racist and horrible monologue about minority students.), and Emma seems to think it is a pretty good idea and goes along with it. Cue the montage for the college scheme going down. They photoshop Emma into a soccer game she retakes the SAT’s in another state with a hot proctor. Emma is totally into it because it means that she is going to be going to the same school as her boyfriend.
Not Felicity’s husband is not into the idea, and they decide not to continue with the College Admissions scheme. They go the traditional route and ground, Danny, taking away his guitar and keeping him for his band gig!!!!!! Danny breaks the rules, and when his parents bust him, he yells at them and then runs up to his room, blasting metal music. Not Felicity and her husband reconsider if bribing your way into college isn’t all that bad after all. They hire Rick Singer as long as Danny isn’t in on it. They plot behind his back to try to get Danny into college, but he is more interested in his band. (Not Felicity tells him to be careful and not get taken advantage of. Like all the other students, she is robbing of an opportunity to get into school.)
Emma is almost caught by the high school guidance counselor. She wants to know why Yale is asking why her college essay is all about soccer when she has never been on the high school team. Not Lori goes all mamma bear on everyone at the school and is a REAL bitch. She calls Rick Singer and tells him he is a genius, while the detectives are listening in.
Not Felicity also calls Rick Singer to report that Danny improved his SAT score by 350 points… of and by cheating. As she is telling him, the detective and police show up to bring him into custody. Rick Singer attempts to explain his foundation for underprivileged students, and it’s 501C3 status. He is caught and has to comply with the investigation
3 months later, Rick calls Not Felicity and Not Lori and tells them that the foundation is being audited and entraps the mothers admitting what they paid him to do… while the detectives listen in. He also tells Not Lori and Not Felicity that their kids got into the schools they wanted to. He then pleads guilty.
All over the United States, parents who hired Rick Signer are arrested for mail fraud and racketeering. They are taken away in handcuffs while their kids look on terrified. Danny has no idea what is going on, and Emma is like, “and I Oop?”
Danny is the BIG MAN ON CAMPUS because he got into Stanford. Not for long. Once his friends learn about what his parents did, they all get furious at him and freak out on him. Danny swears he didn’t know. Emma, on the other hand, is staying with her boyfriend and his family. Her boyfriend breaks up with her because he does not want to be associated with a liar.
Not Lori has no remorse and tries to schedule her own arraignment with the judge. She leaves the jail looking fly as hell as paparazzi take her photograph. When she gets to her job, at Not Hallmark, she gets fired and escorted from the premises.
Not felicity and her husband look a hot mess and are really upset they did this to their son. He is ignoring their messages. (He is mad at them for making him lose his music manager and less so about lying to get him into college.) Not Felicity is also facing professional repercussions, and no one will hire her to be a Not Actress. Her husband is also facing judgment at his job, but she gets the brunt of the blowback. She then stands in the bathroom and calls herself stupid, over and over again. Not Felicity decides to plead guilty. (Penelope Ann Miller attempts to do some real acting here and is half successful.)
Not Lori is annoyed with the bad press and kind of apologetic to her daughter, Emma. She drinks wine and laughs at everything is happening. Then she goes into her closet and cries in the dark.
Both mothers have lost trust from the children they were attempting to give an advantage to. The movie ends with Not Felicity and her husband listening to Danny’s music on a flash drive. As the music plays, we get the following updates:
“To date, over 50 people, including 35 parents and 10 college coaches, have been indicted as a result of the FBI investigation “Operation Varsity Blues.”
Rick Singer pleaded guilty to 4 felonies. Six of his co-conspirators were among those indicted.
Implicated coaches from Georgetown, Stanford, UCLA, University of Texas, USC, and Wake Forest all have been fired or resigned from their schools. Coach Rudy Meredith resigned from Yale before news of the scam became public.”
They also disclaim: While this story is inspired by true events, certain incidences, characters, timelines, dialogue, and names in the story have been fictionalized or altered for dramatic purposes. With respect to such fictionalization or alteration, any similarity to the name, character, or history of any person living or dead, or actual events is coincidental and unintentional. “
(Which is total bullshit, they were so similar to Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman.)
Minority Report: Guidance Counselor, Detective, Some admissions people.
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*Photo Credit: © 2019 Lifetime