Continuity mistake: When Jim is introducing Paul at the elections assembly, we first see his right hand on the microphone and his left hand on the microphone stand. They it cuts to a close up but now his left hand is on his lap.
An incredibly biting satire that deconstructs politics through the views of high school, director Alexander Payne's 1999 opus "Election" is one of those films that holds up remarkably well, especially in the wake of the wickedly divisive, pandemoniacal political climate that has plagued the United States for the last half-decade under the rule of a certain controversial figure. So strange how a film that seemed timely at its release over twenty years ago can only grow in troubling relevance so many years later. But ultimately, I suppose that's just an unintentional symptom of the malady and malaise of modern politics.
A high school civics teacher (Matthew Broderick) finds himself pushed to his limits - and perhaps beyond - during a student body election when an obsessive and manipulative over-achiever (Reese Witherspoon) runs for president. And what follows is an odyssey of back-stabbing, selfishness and revelations... So, basically your usual election, to be perfectly honest.
The film's great strengths lay within its top-notch performances and wonderfully dark, subversive, satirical humor. How anyone could possible say Broderick and Witherspoon cannot act after seeing this film is frankly dumbfounding to me, and stinks of obvious negative bias. Witherspoon in particular is a revelation, giving her character Tracy Flick is genuinely sense of subconscious threat and ruthlessness hidden cleverly behind a squeaky, bubbly facade. While Witherspoon may have been relegated to standard rom-coms as of late, "Election" is the film that proved when given the right material, she is a remarkable performer. There's a reason this character is still studied and appreciated... and Witherspoon's razor-sharp performance is a huge part of that Not to say Broderick isn't absolutely fantastic in the film, because he very much is, and his increasingly unstable, unhinged performance is just wonderful.
And while Payne's filmography has always felt a little frustrating to me - I personally find it an odd mixture between the drastically overrated and the woefully underrated - I do think this is him at his very best. The laughs that this film elicits are genuine, and the themes run deep, even if they can feel a little obvious at times. There are moments in this film that are genuinely hilarious while also feeling troubling and uncomfortable. And Payne seems to relish in the story he is telling. I also found the genuine quality of the production to be top-notch, especially for the budgetary level Payne was working with.
In the end, "Election" might not be a film for everyone. But it is an effective parable and a unsparing metaphor that should be seen at least once by everyone. You just might see a splash of the real, modern world inside it.
5 out of 5. One of the best films of 1999.
Tammy Metzler: If you died right now, I would throw myself into one of my Dad's cement trucks and get poured into your tomb.
Trivia: Near the end of the movie after Mr McAllister gets fired and we see full-screen shots of newspaper articles detailing the election scandal, if you pause the film at the third newspaper article (with the headline 'Carver Student Plans Lawsuit') and read it, you'll see that the director had a bit of fun with the viewing audience by inserting a couple of paragraphs into the middle of the story: 'If you've paused the film in order to read this entire article, your time would be better spent renting "Citizen Ruth" from your local video store. Do you know how hard and unthankful (?) a task it is to write these fake few stories for newspaper movie pages? I've got better things to do.'
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