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18 reviews, 87 user ratings

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Election (1999)
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Stunning underattended satire. Reese should've won the Oscar for this."
5 stars

Teen cinema is full of here-today, gone-five-minutes-from-now stars -- today's Hilary Duff is tomorrow's Dana Plato -- but Reese Witherspoon is the real thing.

She is the oddest young actress: a perky lioness who can shift from a sunny grin to a squinched-up pout of disgust in a millisecond. In movies like Freeway, Pleasantville, and the biting satire Election, Witherspoon sometimes seems like the only fully alive person on the screen -- if only because she has so much more energy than her costars -- and sometimes that energy lashes out and zaps people. This lioness can be red in tooth and claw.

Election, the second feature by director Alexander Payne and co-writer Jim Taylor (their previous collaboration was 1996's Citizen Ruth), finds Witherspoon sharpening her fangs on her hapless classmates and teachers at George Washington Carver High in Omaha. She's Tracy Flick (the surname spelled in caps on a poster sometimes comes prankishly close to obscenity), a true renaissance girl who throws herself into every possible extracurricular activity. Tracy knows that women must work twice as hard for success, so she's starting early. In fact, when it comes time to begin her candidacy for Student Council President, she has her table set up, her sign-up pads neatly arranged, long before the first bell of the school day. And God himself couldn't help anyone who gets in her way.

Watching the brash, confident, resourceful Tracy, we might wonder how she'd get along with a brash, confident, resourceful teen of a decade ago -- Ferris Bueller. As it happens, we don't have to wonder: Matthew Broderick, with some meat around the middle and some gray in his temples, is Jim McAllister, a well-respected history teacher at Carver High. Ferris was a different prodigy than Tracy -- he was more of a goof-off, using his wits and energy to get out of school. Jim could almost be Ferris ten years later, settled into a stable job, an unsurprising life. The answer to our question is, Ferris and Tracy wouldn't get along, and neither do Tracy and Jim; Jim sees Tracy as a ruthless climber, and he tosses a few roadblocks in her path, including a likable but dim jock (Chris Klein) and the jock's nihilistic lesbian sister (Jessica Campbell), both of whom run against Tracy.

It's said that the rest of life is high school, only more so; Payne and Taylor invert the equation here, treating the power plays and snubs and naked competition of high school as a microcosm for American politics (with a little economics tossed in). The script, based on a Tom Perrotta novel, is tight and elegant; Payne's neutral eye, which he turned so effectively onto pro-choicers and pro-lifers in Citizen Ruth, stares just as unblinkingly at the fallible students and teachers brought low by their own unattainable desires. Everyone, that is, except Tracy; for her, no desire is unattainable, provided you get up early enough and press enough flesh.

Tracy seems almost like an alien, but then so do Anthony Robbins or Stephen Covey or your choice of personal-improvement gurus. One can picture her ten years from now, tossing off a bestseller explaining how to achieve your dreams, using the banal language of optimism and self-realization to smother the cries of those she's destroyed on the way up. The brilliance of Election, and of Reese Witherspoon's performance, is that we also see the human being inside all that manipulation and muck. When Tracy thinks she's defeated, her despair is nearly Homeric; she bawls like the little girl she never really got a chance to be, and our hearts go out to her in spite of ourselves.

But the movie isn't over yet, and there are more twists in store. Alexander Payne catches us feeling sorry for these characters -- Tracy in her time of agony, the hapless Jim, the miserable lesbian outcast, the aw-shucks jock -- and then turns the tables on us. Nobody in 'Election' is as bad as they seem; nobody is as good as they seem, either.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=438&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/12/07 18:02:01
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User Comments

12/28/17 morris campbell funny satire on high school 4 stars
3/30/17 Blake Patterson Alexander Payne wrote Election with furious hilarity and dark passion. 5 stars
4/26/16 Ken Pretty funny. Matthew Broderick was great in this film. 4 stars
5/21/15 David Hollingsworth A savagely funny satire that hits like darts 5 stars
11/21/08 Shaun Wallner Awesome Story! 5 stars
9/03/07 Alan "Slap, then screw" -- is that how you relate to the female sex? 5 stars
10/02/06 Rob It should be said that the wardrobes and 'makeup' in this movie are subtly awesome. 4 stars
9/18/06 MP Bartley Genuinely brilliant. Witherspoon and Broderick are outstanding. 5 stars
2/25/06 Clubber Lang Watchable, but never really engaging. Too many characters, needed more focus. 3 stars
9/06/05 ALDO chris klein is perfect 4 stars
5/25/05 Jake Hilarious! 5 stars
3/24/05 indrid cold Surprisingly good, almost bizarrely good. 5 stars
12/07/03 Samuel A very funny film!! 4 stars
11/26/03 he a great film 5 stars
11/23/03 E. Best line "her pussy gets so wet" 5 stars
11/05/03 M. Suvajac an extraordinary film 5 stars
10/25/03 Al Baston Broderick clothes (those shirts & ties) are perfect for the fat ass dufess he plays. 5 stars
9/24/03 ILLEGALLY BLONDE The only time Reese Witherspoon ever shined; too bad it's in an overall groaner 3 stars
7/26/03 robert buizer great laugh 5 stars
4/03/03 Jack Sommersby Smart and hilariously human. Broderick and Witherspoon are outstanding. 4 stars
12/08/02 Kyle One of the greatest films I've ever seen. I don't say that lightly. 5 stars
11/02/02 Steve Kaczynski One of the last US films of the 20th century that I would call great.. 5 stars
10/17/02 Charles Tatum This sucks as bad as "Rushmore" 1 stars
8/24/02 movie guy great 5 stars
6/11/02 Millie Maelstrom Better, Kakararaniniginjia (though I was hoping for some groovy role for those enzymes!) 3 stars
5/14/02 Kakararaniniginjia Sinitraviwasanjofraz Fails urgent need of good support cast around brilliance of Reese Witherspoon's zany dliver 3 stars
3/07/02 Mo Anand A very funny movie...Matthew was better in "ferris bueller"...but still good 4 stars
3/05/02 Veronica Foxx -The Raven-Haired Temptress ELECTION deserves more credit and attention than it has received. Too bad really, good film 4 stars
3/01/02 Unagiboy Pick Flick! Witherspoon was brilliant. I loved the tribal chant music in her mind. 5 stars
2/25/02 Obi Wan Great Movie...MTv should make more flicks like this!! Instead of their PC garbage!! 5 stars
2/02/02 Allison Lafferty Reese Witherspoon's best movie (not saying much). She must really be that silly. 2 stars
1/23/02 John Wilner Note that Tracy signs her name with a star over the i in Flick. Rich detail throughout! 5 stars
11/15/01 John This deserved at least one Oscar 5 stars
11/12/01 Jake Not too shabby. 4 stars
11/03/01 Andrew Carden This Movie Was So Funny and Reese Was The Greatest Thing Ever! 5 stars
10/29/01 Gary Witty, subtle, well written and Reese Witherspoon is a star in the making. 5 stars
9/04/01 Butterbean Ferris Bueller's principal is avenged. Definantly an awesome flick! Reese rocked! 5 stars
8/06/01 E-Funk Insanely original. Broderick's best since Ferris Bueller. I loved it. 5 stars
7/23/01 bobbuttons This movie is so great. "Fuck me, Mr. M. Fuck me now" is the greatest line. 5 stars
6/10/01 Serial_Monk_the_Jawbreaker Great characters. Not too funny, but if this movie's trying to be evil, it succeeds 4 stars
5/31/01 BrainPan Yes, yes, ya'll! Me rikee!! 5 stars
4/09/01 Gary I saw it for the first time last night, and I loved it. Great flick! 5 stars
4/08/01 Will Y. it takes time to understand a lot of the underlying meaning about sexuality, but it's great 4 stars
2/06/01 Trashstar Witty, sharp, dark and very very funny. Reese shines as does Matthew. 5 stars
10/15/00 Dimmer Itch Reese proves she's better at any Sandras, Camerons or Heathers at comic acting. Fantastic. 4 stars
10/08/00 BirdBrain Very funny, if you pay attention to it. So if you're a dumbass Armageddon fan, stay away. 4 stars
7/12/00 Tom Wonderful dark comedy. Vote for Tracy Flick!!!!! 5 stars
7/06/00 Matthew Bartley Very different and funny.Reese is great 4 stars
6/26/00 stranded on the Island Best comedy I've seen in a long time; reese and matthew are perfect! 5 stars
6/02/00 Add A very good movie with some outstanding performances but just not as funny as i'd of liked. 4 stars
5/07/00 Stan Mador BEST MOVIE IVE SEEN! 5 stars
4/28/00 The Bomb 69 to intelligent for most people and that's unfortunate, great movie!!! 5 stars
4/24/00 Brian Engen The special effects were awesome!! 5 stars
2/20/00 arnold extremely funny 5 stars
2/14/00 Germanicus Good acting, a few funny bits, nice story and snappy editing but infinitely overrated. 4 stars
2/05/00 Kyle Broflovski A teenage girl in pursuit of something besides Prom Prince Charming?? PINCH ME!!! :-) 5 stars
1/26/00 Joel Harwood WHAT A FILM 5 stars
1/18/00 bullit17 Clever. Funny. Thought-provoking. Sure to remind you of high school and some kids you knew 4 stars
1/16/00 Will not to be too wordy, but all I have to say is "cool". 4 stars
11/29/99 Mic Sharp and hilarious - shows Drop Dead Gorgeous how it should be done 5 stars
11/08/99 Mark Linkson Broderick finally acts his age, Witherspoon excellent as usual, a very clever satire 4 stars
10/18/99 Tfer One of the best this year! 5 stars
8/22/99 Michael Grimm too well written for most retards watching movies nowadays, anyone with a brain loves it 5 stars
8/01/99 Jeff Hilarious and intelligent. Great acting. A should-be Best Picture nominee 5 stars
7/27/99 David Gilmour Definitely the best film of the Year, SO Far;7/99 5 stars
7/09/99 bridgette awesome. 5 stars
7/08/99 Ann Great! It's about time someone exposed the truths behind a 'little miss perfect' 5 stars
6/29/99 PhilmPhreak A welcome break from weak-ass summer flicks. 5 stars
6/29/99 Dave Rad as 5 stars
6/23/99 Tim best movie i've seen this year 5 stars
6/18/99 Michael Lewis Best film I,ve seen this year. Intelegent, well written and funny! 5 stars
6/14/99 David Really funny, and probably like nothing you've seen before, not even Rushmore. 5 stars
6/04/99 Lisa Sick and wrong on so many levels--I loved it! 5 stars
6/03/99 Mel I haven't felt this guilty laughing at a movie in a long time.... 5 stars
6/03/99 The Graduate A hilarous movie, heavy on the cruelty. Sometimes those perfectionist have to pay. 5 stars
5/27/99 pipeman If you like your humor dark, you'll love this. Great flick! 5 stars
5/26/99 GothamDK Got to be a little jaded. Type A students won't get it. Heathers is still better. 4 stars
5/25/99 Freyja Smart and FUNNY! 5 stars
5/22/99 bridgette loved it! i usually am not a reese fan, but she was great. 5 stars
5/20/99 Bob, Lord of Evil I won't say fuck Star Wars, but I'd rather see this a third time over that one... 5 stars
5/17/99 David K Fuck Star Wars 5 stars
5/10/99 Malbert It was great 5 stars
5/10/99 Katie Definately a great one, love the dark humor. 5 stars
5/07/99 BraveFan Richly satisfying - witty and engaging - saw it twice 5 stars
4/25/99 kam it'was ok 4 stars
4/25/99 Mr Showbiz A feralessly dark and funny adult comedy. 5 stars
4/11/99 the DUDE Matthew Brodrick is great-Fucking funny 5 stars
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  23-Apr-1999 (R)


  07-Oct-1999 (M)

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