18 October 2010 3:40 AM, PDT | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

Alexander Payne, 1999

Election was a novel before it was a film, but Tom Perrotta only got a publisher after film-maker Payne read Election and optioned it. In Payne's hands, Election transcended its roots as the sharply observed tale of a high-school president contest, to become an allegory for American politics, in which the sharp-elbowed battle the stupid and manipulated.

Like Payne's later films, About Schmidt and Sideways, this centres on the great sadness at the heart of a man. In this case it's Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick), a high-school teacher unhappy in his marriage, whose hatred of the overachieving pupil Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) is such that he persuades the class jock Paul Metzler (Chris Klein) to run against her for the school presidency. McAllister then becomes so deeply embroiled in the race that he tries to fix the vote. Witherspoon has never been better, and Broderick, puffy and harassed, »

- Michael Hann

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