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Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal Review

By Dhruv Anish Apr. 18, 2021

Rating: (3/5) Intriguing subject matter, creative reenactments of actual conversations, could have provided further insight into the situation.

Released on March 17, “Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal” is a documentary from director Chris Smith that covers the 2019 college admissions controversy involving 50 parents who paid off admissions officers, test proctors and sports coaches to open a side door for their children into prestigious universities. The film uncovers Singer’s webs of deceit and explains how he was able to get the children of wealthy families into prestigious colleges under the guise of being heavily-recruited athletes and hiring a testing aide in order to alter their test scores.

While having actors cast as real people in a documentary [was risky]...Smith was able to intercut the reenactments a way that helped the audience...sense the desperation of the parents.

“Operation Varsity Blues” presents the events in a linear fashion, starting with the origins of Rick Singer and explaining how his continued success led him to develop this service of creating “side doors” for affluent students to get into their dream colleges. The film also conveys the information in an interesting manner by reenacting phone conversations the Federal Bureau of Investigation intercepted between some parents and Singer, imbuing the movie with a feeling of being a hybrid between a documentary and a narrative film. While having actors cast as real people in a documentary served the risk of being jarring to the viewer, Smith was able to intercut the reenactments with the information of the events in a way that helped the audience further understand the appeal of Singer and sense the desperation of the parents. College professors, athletic directors, former clients and acquaintances of Singer were all interviewed in order for the filmmakers to paint a full picture of the scandal while also reflecting on the admissions process as a whole.

[The film] fails to truly cover any new ground about the scandal as a whole.

The film does a good job of remaining fast-paced throughout and poses some intriguing questions about the lengths parents would go to make sure their child was able to attend a prestigious university and how the prestige of a university is valued over the actual academic experience. However, an issue that I do have with the film is that it fails to truly cover any new ground about the scandal as a whole. It was captivating to see the intricacies in Singer’s operation and how the scandal was eventually brought to light, but the film did little other than provide the audience with the basic facts about the controversy that are present in news reports about the event.

To conclude, Operation Varsity Blues is an engaging and entertaining documentary that is worth watching if you are interested in learning more about the college admissions scandal and the catalysts that propelled an event like this to occur.


About the Contributor

Dhruv Anish

Staff Writer

Dhruv Anish is a junior at Leland High School who is a staff writer for the newspaper. He likes to watch movies and listen to music in his spare time. His favorite actor is Robert Deniro and his favorite movie is The Godfather: Part 2.

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