Election (1999)

Reviewed By Chef ADogg
Posted 01/25/00 18:46:39

"Not up to the standards laid down by previous MTV films."
5 stars (Awesome)

Sorry 'bout that headline. I started writing it about a month ago, but then this evil spirit posessed my body and just went wild with the keyboard, writing down all this crazy shit about Jerry O'Connel being a genius and everything. They had to bring a priest in to exorcise the demon, and that took awhile... But I'm back now and I'm ready to resume the review and tell you that "Election" is actually one of the finest films of 1999, and the bravest satire to come down the pike since "The Player."

Matthew Broderick as a teacher. If that doesn't make you laugh, or at least smile, find the nearest time machine and go reclaim the innocence of your youth. Anyways, Broderick is all grown up and he's actually a pretty decent educator. He cares about his students, he's involved in all kinds of extracurricular activities, and he rules his classes with a firm, fair hand.

All that changes when Tracey Flick (Reese Witherspoon) runs for student council president. A lonely, desperate overachiever, Flick has dedicated her entire life to excelling--she has a built-in, indestructable desire to be number one at everything she tries. If there's a game, she makes the rules; she won't be in a club unless she's running it; and she'll do whatever she can to stay in the spotlight (and keep everyone else out).

Broderick has seen her type before, and when it looks like Flick's going to run unopposed he enlists a jock (Chris Klein) to enter the race. After that, everything goes haywire and the line between right and wrong becomes effectively blurred. It's fun to watch all the characters change as the pressure gets heavy--an experience that can also be pretty intense.

"Election" is often a hard movie to watch--a good lot of the scenes toggle between comedy and drama, eventually landing into the category of "uncomfortable." Curious? Good, go watch the movie. To quote the best lines and summarize the best scenes would be easy, but also criminal. This is stuff you've never seen before, sick and twisted stuff. It amazes me that movies like this can sneak by the MPAA--the subject matter is somewhat light and the content is rarely explicit, but damn is it disturbing nonetheless!

Most of the credit goes to Alexander Payne, whose only previous film was the critically acclaimed "Citizen Ruth" (unseen by me). He really delivers with "Election;" it's rare that you find a film this consistent in both laughs AND smarts. He's also one of the only recent young directors who employs both substance and style equally; most of his concentration obviously went to the witty, surprising script, but he's also a great filmmaker, staging smooth, well structured scenes and capturing them with a clear eye.

The man also has a hand with actors; Broderick has been a likeable presence for as long as I care to remember, but his chops have rarely been this strong. Witherspoon is finally given a role that suits her strange charms (and drive-in movie theater forehead), and Klein plays it sweet with plenty of subtle edge. Films like "Election" require maximum precision, and the cast principles don't disappoint.

I hope you enjoyed my review! I did go through an exorcism to write it, after all. But you know what? If it makes one more person want to check this great movie it, the experience was more than worth it!

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