Election review by Tom Blain
Something dawned on me during the intro of Election. Mathew Broderick is probably best known for his role as Ferris Bueller in which he torments Mr. Rooney, a principal who has very little in his life besides the power he holds over his students. Bueller turns the table on this principal, flushing ole Mr. Rooneys life down the drain while skipping school on day. About 15 years later, here he is; a little older and ready to play the reverse role. It dawned on me during a shot of him showering. At that point, I thought back to Ferris Bueller dishing out his I could be the Walrus line. This shot must have been a reference to Ferris Bueller, I thought, in which case I should prepare myself for a similar film.
Election isnt about bad kids ditching school, but good kids with a few bad things to hide. Mr. McAlister (Broderick) is a teacher who appears to love his job. He gets involved with his students, builds lasting relationships, and wins awards year after year. But deep down, there is something else that he hungers for that he isnt getting at Carver High School. Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) is the school overachiever. She is in every club, raising her hand for every question, and getting involved whenever possible. Despite the pretty, bright smile, she has a few is fiercely competitive when it comes club leadership and she had a little thing with a former teacher. Paul Metzler (Chris Klein) is a golden boy, cool kid who lost his football spot due to a broken leg. He is also dumb as a rock. His sister Tammy (Jessica Campbell), on the other hand, is a bit of a black sheep. She dresses down, doesnt care much about going to college, and is even more of an outcast because she is a lesbian whom nobody accepts.
Tracy throws her hat into the ring, unopposed, for student body president; something that Mr. M would love to see her lose. Maybe its because of her affair-with-the-teacher thing, maybe its because she hogs the stage for her own self gain, but McAlister would just like to see her fail. So he privately endorses cool-man Paul for president. As revenge against her brother, Tammy runs for president too. Quickly the movie goes from teen-fluff to an intriguing political satire based in the lowest and really, most useless form of government: student government.
As in real life politics, the candidates seem (with the exception of Tammy) squeaky clean on the outside but during the course of the election process begin to reveal all their flaws, dark sides, and evil skeletons. For his involvment, even Mr. M gets pulled into the muck. The movie parallels they types of things that could happen in any tooth-and-nail political battle Despite student body president being a seemingly meaningless position it shows the school and its administrators handling the process seriously.
One of the great mechanisms used in this film, is the use of multiple narrators. For most of the film, Mr. McAlister is narrating, but there are a number of segments where Tracy, Paul and Tammy narrate as well. This works to show us multiple prospectives on people and situations. What Mr. McAlister says about Tracy could be completely contradicted or interpreted by Tracy herself, and we never know that until she speaks on her behalf. It gives the characters equality; much like having the same amount of air-time during a presidential debate.
The actors really nail their roles in Election. Usually in a political satire, characters are more or less characitures of some sort of political ideal. They more or less become whatever one-point they represent; more or less like 1-dimensional politcal poster saying "Elect me because I am super-liberal and drive a Toyota Prius". But in this movie, those representations are twisted. Broderick plays Mr. M initially as everyone's favorite teacher, but slow deteriorates as his issues rise to the surface. Witherspoon does a brilliant job as Tracy Flick. She is perfect on the surface, but her self motivation drives her not only over people, but through people.
Election was a huge surprise for me. I had heard great things about it, and really enjoyed all other movies by director, Alexander Payne, but I didnt think it would be this good. Its a sharp political satire, that doesnt pull any punches, nor does it leave this little Midwest high school looking completely wholesome; despite the characters wholesome appearance. No one is really as good as they seem in Election, nor should it be that way since they are all human looking for their slice of the pie. If you havent seen it already, rent this one tonight.
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IMDB Link: Election
DVD Relase Date: 1999-10-19
DVD Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
DVD Extras: Audio Commentary from Alexander Payne
- Ferris Bueller's Day Off
- About Schmidt
- The Stepford Wives
- The Lion King
- Walk the Line
- Little Children
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