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This is quite simply one of the finest movies I have ever seen. It has
incredible pace and flair, with both the script and the direction
demanding equal attention. And it just works so well on so many levels.
Whilst it is a political satire, it also stands well as a story in its
own right. It's great to see Matthew Broderick in a good film. Reese
Witherspoone turns in what I consider to be a career-best, and Chris
Klein is wonderfully endearing as a jock with a heart of gold.
What I really love about Election is the way its pace doesn't let up at all. By the time you've finished you feel like you've seen a good two and a half hours of movie. It's the only film I know that seems longer than it is in a good way.
This film made me laugh out loud more than any other I can remember that isn't just a dumb comedy. But Election also doesn't take itself too seriously. The direction can accurately be described as deadpan - with Chris Klein, stripped of his ability to play football, gazing soulfully out to sea, and falling asleep over a book on philosophy. The way that each major character is afforded a voice-over, giving us an amusing insight into their psyche, is a wonderful technique, and the freezeframes of Reese Witherspoone's contorted facial expressions truly are moments to treasure.
What more can I say? Election is smart, funny, and biting. It maintains its brilliance for the entire duration of the movie, and the ending is wholly satisfying. In fact, I can't actually think of one word of criticism. You'll have to search long and hard to find a better film anywhere, which is why I'm giving it a stellar nine out of ten.
The Academy Award attention heaped on "Sideways" helped to make
Alexander Payne a mainstream name among casual film goers, but many of
us knew about his talent as a film maker long before. And his two more
recent films--"Sideways" and "About Schmidt"--have been much gentler
(thought still terrific) than his earlier efforts. Before "Election,"
Payne had already made "Citizen Ruth," a caustic, bracing satire of the
abortion issue, and "Election" continued his penchant for harsh,
uncomfortable comedy. I mean that in a good way, though. Payne's movies
are funny, but they make you uneasy for laughing at them, and they have
sharp, intelligent insights into the attitudes that drive American
In "Election," Payne uses a high school class presidential election as an opportunity to lampoon everything that's goofy about the American political system. Just as in our national elections for president, the winner is not necessarily the person with the most integrity, and honesty is a liability, not a virtue. The person who is willing to play dirtiest comes out on top, and elections aren't about who is most qualified but rather about who is most popular. And, the best part about the movie is its acknowledgement of voter apathy. Most Americans don't really give a damn, something that makes them not so different from the majority of high schoolers who don't even understand the point of having a class president to begin with. In fact, in the film's best scene, the assembly at which each candidate gives her/his campaign speech, one of the candidates (who joins the race out of spite) gets the best reception from the crowd when she encourages everyone not to vote at all.
Reese Witherspoon gives a wonderful performance as Tracy Flick, the school's most likely to succeed, whose goodie-goodie exterior hides the fact that she's willing to do just about anything to get ahead. Matthew Broderick is refreshingly unlikable as a social studies teacher who would like to see Tracy fail just once, until the fact that his own life is falling apart turns this wish into an obsession. And Chris Klein has some fun as the dopey, Jesus-following popular guy who becomes Tracy's arch rival, but never really even knows it.
Payne doesn't tidy up his film's moral messages. On the one hand, Tracy is obnoxious, and we want to see her fail as much as Broderick's character does. But she does know how to play the game, and isn't that part of what makes someone a good leader? We sympathize with Broderick up to a point, but his motives really are driven by a personal vendetta, not by any altruistic ideal of right vs. wrong. So if you normally need someone to root for in order to enjoy a movie, you're probably not going to like this one.
But who expects a hero?...I mean, come on, we're talking about American politics here.
With me, Alexander Payne can do no wrong. Before he entered Hollywood's
big league of directors with ABOUT SCHMIDT and SIDEWAYS, he made this
remarkable film about a highschool election. But this is hardly your
average highschool flick, this is an intelligently written,
foul-mouthed film, filled with colorful characters and plenty of laughs
in the process.
In a pitch-perfect role, Reese Witherspoon is Tracy Flick, one of those irritating girls that are always in the front row, always raise their hand and wanna do something for the sake of the school, read, for their own resume. Tracy Flick is one of those, a fiercely calculating careerist who will stop at nothing to get the main prize, the office of student body president at Carver High. Since she's running unopposed, nothing seems in her way at getting what she wants, again. History teacher and student government adviser Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick, Ferris Bueller reversed) seems content with his life, but is worn out by his love-less marriage, and by the plight of his best friend and colleague, sacked for sleeping with consenting but under age Tracy Flick. With the coming elections, McAllister is appalled by the prospect of working closely with this little nagging career bitch, and charged with overseeing the proceedings, discreetly sponsors a rival candidate, dumb but popular jock Paul Metzler (Chris Klein), to enter the election. But when Paul's sister Tammy (Jessica Campbell), an embittered and unpopular girl announces her candidacy, the election becomes a really back-biting and nasty affair, with Jim McAllister getting more than he bargained for.
I think this film might appeal even more to adults than teenagers. If you like Alexander Payne's uncompromising approach to his subjects, this will definitely be up your alley, with everything from lesbianism to adultery thrown in the mix. Ideally casted all the way, with Matthew Broderick, after a number of uninteresting roles in lame movies, really making his mark. He gives his role a sort of understatement that makes Mr. McAllister a hopelessly tragic, but utterly lovable loser.
Camera Obscura --- 9/10
Election is easily my favorite comedy and one of my top ten favorite
of all time. It brings out the best in most of it's cast and the stylistic
quality of the film is both outrageous and subtle at the same time.
the most amazing part of Election is that it makes an incredible movie and
bases it around a subject so simple as a high school election.
But do not be fooled by it's simplicity in basic plot because hiding behind it's summary is a film that truly was underappreciated and very underrated. MTV has never and will never again get a movie as stunning as this.
Reese Witherspoon gives the performance of her career by playing Tracy Flick, a neurotic, self-obsessed go getter with a somewhat dark past that puts her on edge with Jim McCalister, a teacher who truly will stop at nothing to bring her down.
I will not say any more about Election except that those who have not seen this movie are truly missing out on an amazing film
Ethics and Morals
I'm not generally a fan of excessive voice-over and quirky, stylised direction but here it's all done so well. It seems to suffer from that classic "this film didn't make sense" style of review, but it clearly does. A wonderful script with a great mix of slapstick and intelligent comedy and winning performances from Broderick, a brilliant Reese Witherspoon and the normally hapless Chris Klein.
And, yes, it has sex in it. It's hardly titillating and is always completely relevant to the plot. But if you simply hate seeing sex (not nudity, of which there is very little) in films then you won't like it.
It beats Rushmore to the 'best film set in a high school' award.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A unique microcosm of politics in the U.S. is shown in "Election", one of the most interesting productions of 1999. Set in a high school, young over-achiever Reese Witherspoon feels that she should be the next student council president. Teacher Matthew Broderick feels that Witherspoon is an evil and manipulative person who just thinks about herself and her own status. Enter dumb jock Chris Klein, who does have a good heart and a fair amount of popularity. Broderick talks him into running and the madness begins. Add Klein's lesbian sister, Broderick's torrid affair and ballot tampering and you have a film that shows its intelligence and shows the lengths that people will go to further their own lives at the expense of others. Neat and smart little satire. Some parts seem to be foreshadowers to the awful presidential election of 2000 between Al Gore and George W. Bush. 4 stars out of 5.
High-school comedies became popular because the milieu was familiar to
a large proportion of the film-going audience
But the best examples of
the genre in the 1980s and 1990s satirized not only the constant battle
of the sexes, but other elements in American life
struggles between jocks and nerds were a kind of microcosm of the class
difference which is supposed not to exist in the United States
In "Election," one of the best examples of this popular genre, much of the humor is at the expense of the 'democratic' process The film's guiding insight is that in practice democracy reduces to a popularity contest, in which dirty tricks are the norm
Tracy is a Nebraskan high-school blonde who is brilliant and hard-working She is standing for election as student president Played by Reese Witherspoon, Tracy is bright and intolerant, eaten up by ambition and her ruthless determination to win She is regarded with disgust by a career teacher and student adviser, Jim McAllister, for her self-righteousness, and also for her role in the dismissal of his fellow teacher Dave after a sex scandal Jim encourages student football star Paul to stand against Tracy
For some reason, this film has always brought a laugh to the bottom of stomach. Some people may call it boring due to the fact its not some gross-out teen comedy, but this is really the antithesis of a great satire. One can't see the scaly nature of politics simply because its always drowned in newspeak and bad reporting. But to see it at this level of understanding, it proves to be quite entertaining. It also provides a precursor to our most recent (2000) election. We have the longtime politician, the incompetent who people like, and the iconoclast who wants to shake up government. And of course, there is the cheating regulator who gets the wrong person elected for his own slimy means. Who would have guessed life would imitate art. A great film for all to see. Matthew Broderick is at his best, Reese Witherspoon really sells her role, and I actually tolerated Chris Klein's role in this film.
"Election" is a dark comedy - dark and funny. Tracy Flick (Reese
Witherspoon) is an over-achiever and creates havoc in the life of her
teacher (Matthew Broderick) as the school elections approach.
I have to echo the sentiment that this is one of the best (if not the best) movie set in a high school. It's hard to even call it a high school movie as the topics encompass a broader range, and it's a very intelligent and thoughtful script. It's dramatic with its dark situations, and at the same time it's a very smart comedy.
Starring a young Reese Witherspoon who proves her bright future and Matthew Broderick who is perfect in the role and floats effortlessly between drama and comedy. A well deserved Oscar nomination for Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor for the screenplay. Their other movies include "About Schmidt" (2002) and "Sideways" (2004).
"Election" is one of the best films of its kind. I recommend it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Everyone's a politician in "Election", Alexander Payne's dark comedy
about a student presidential election. Genius and overachiever Flick
(Reese Witherspoon) acts like a chirpy angel on the outside, but look
closer and she's vindictive, mean spirited and sexually precocious.
Teacher Jim McAllister, who enthusiastically helps his students and
school, is no better, as he cheats on his wife and embarks on a plot to
ruin Flick's electoral chances. And on and on it goes, Payne peeling
back pretence to reveal a cast of nasty, predatory schemers. Teachers
suck up to students for sex, students selfishly run for candidacy in an
attempt to get kicked out of school, and others merely take part in the
election because they were manipulated into running. The point: life's
a political rally, everyone has an ulterior motive, everyone's a
spin-doctor, everyone's constantly maintaining their own little user
generated political campaigns, designed to mislead, sucker, curry
favour and win votes of confidence. Open your mouth and you're playing
the game too.
"Election" does well to depict human behaviour as a cycle of neural elections, biochemical ballots held in our heads in which conflicting aspects of our messy personalities vie for what we say and do. But there's no democracy in our heads, and often instead a predisposition to tyranny; a kind of soft, interior fascism.
Payne traces the damage and consequences of this, each of his characters unwittingly leaving a trail of pain and destruction in their wake. They all pretend to "mean well" but no one means what they say, self-interest trumps altruism and altruism masks darker, swirling emotions anyway. It's a hopeless film.
"Election" was released a year after Wes Anderson's "Rushmore", a film whose plot it heavily resembles. But Payne's tone is closer to Todd Solondz and to a lesser extent the follies of the Coens, Neil Labute and Woody Allen. It's a conceited film, too impressed with its own cynicism, pessimism, and cast of cartoonish cretins, perverts, jerks and losers, but Payne is also perceptive in the way he forces you to continually reassess his characters. Little Flick, for example, seems like Payne's villain, but on the other hand she's a marginalised, lonely, sexually abused girl whose drive to succeed is the result of external pressures working on her. A similar inadequacy fuels her teacher McAllister, who sabotages Flick's campaign because his own life is in shambles. McAllister rationalises his actions as being ethical because Flick sabotaged the campaigns of other candidates and on one level he's right to do this but Flick's plot to exclude the other candidates, which echoes McAllister's plot to exclude Flick, itself merely echoes the social exclusion (deleted scenes further highlight that Flick lives in poverty) or alienation that drives Flick into politics. It's a kind of feedback loop, selfishness and jealousy breeding selfishness and jealousy, in which every subject justifies their action as being ethical because the other has no ethics.
"Election" is often touted as a satire on political campaigns. But the film is barely a satire, and has very little to do with politics, other than its broad jabs and your typical US candidates. In this regard you have the stuck up conservative who is secretly liberal in her private life and eventually reveals herself to be a kind of joyless Orwellian freak. Then there's the rich airhead candidate who's privately moral and upstanding but nevertheless knows and stands for nothing. Meanwhile, another candidate embodies a form of very modern, impotency and apathy. She eventually ditches the system to make out with her lesbian lover. Matthew Broderick, formerly known as a youth star of 1980s high school movies, is well cast in a somewhat ironic adult role. In the 80s, his characters typically rallied against the type of character he plays here.
8/10 Worth one viewing.
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