ELECTION (1999) 

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Matthew Broderick
Reese Witherspoon
Chris Klein
Jessica Campbell
Mark Harelik
Molly Hagan
Delaney Driscoll

Alexander Payne



The Novel

Time: 103 mins.
Rating: R
Genre: Dark Comedy

Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.

ELECTION is a comedy not everyone will find funny. It's a film that showcases its' characters inner ugliness and uses it to make you laugh. These characters are so human, they're almost completely unlikable. The main characters in this film are a civics teacher and an overacheiving student. Both are seen on the outside as happy, thoughtful, decent individuals. But that's merely a facade. When cornered their true natures come out. What makes this movie even more fun is the casting of Matthew Broderick, who finally gets to show some depth, and Reese Witherspoon, who gets to show her comic chops. They play their roles perfectly – Broderick as Mr. McAllister, a teacher tired of a life he thought he loved and Witherspoon as Tracy Flick, the happy-go-lucky senior who refuses to be anything but number one. Seeing her always getting exactly what she wants causes him to snap and start a secret war to ruin her dreams of becoming Student Council President.

It's not that he hates Tracy. She's the perfect student. At least that's the image she's projecting. He hopes she'll get brought down a peg when her affair with his best friend, another teacher, is discovered, but that's not meant to be. His friend's life is ruined, she comes out smelling like roses without even a hint of remorse for turning him in. When it becomes apparent that he's going to be spending alot more time with Tracy once she wins the student council election, Mr. McAllister decides to do something about it. He just can't deal with her overabundant school spirit and incessant ideas. To make the election more interesting, he encourages Paul (Klein), a popular jock who's injured to run against her. It's an idea out of left-field for Paul, but once he wraps his uncomplicated mind around the concept, he decides to join the race. Tracy is incensed. Though she's a model student, she's nowhere near as popular as Paul. Of course, she puts on a happy face, telling herself she'll just have to campaign harder.

"t's like my mom always says, "The weak are always trying to sabatoge the strong."

The race becomes even more interesting when Paul's sister Tammy, a closet lesbian, joins the fray. She doesn't care who wins, she's just trying to ruin Paul's chances. He stole her girlfriend (not that he knew they were an item) and now it's his turn to pay. Tracy is appalled, but there's nothing she can do. Mr. McAllister should be thrilled to see Tracy so agitated, but the more he plots against her, the more determined she gets. Neither of them are playing fair, yet he's the only one getting caught. She seems on the verge of getting everything she wants, while his life is unravelling by the day. Election Day finally arrives and the outcome is Mr. McAllister's worst nightmare. By now it's too late for him to stop the madness. He steps over the line, becoming a personal and professional loser. Ferris Bueller grows up and it ain't pretty. Tracy, like all over-acheivers gets exactly what she wants. How else could it end?

What makes ELECTION so funny and dead-on is the fact that these are all people we knew in high school. The emotions are right on the money as well. We all hated other students because they were cooler, smarter, better looking. When we didn't get what we wanted it was the end of the world. For the film to work, you have to hate Tracy. In any other teen flick, she would be the one you root for. In ELECTION, she's so perky and evil, you just want her dreams to be crushed into dust as payback for all the perfect people you have to endure in life. Witherspoon is so wonderfully funny in this role. She captures the soul of Tracy Flick perfectly, emanating pure determination from every pore. She is the heart of this movie for good or bad. If you like your characters to be nice and lovable, ELECTION is not the movie for you. It may be about high school, but it's not a pretty picture. Of course, if you find humor in the meanspiritedness of others, rush out to see this flick. You'll have a ball.

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