Updated: Aug 13, 2018
Metadata: R | 1999 | 102 minutes
Genre: Satire, Comedy, Drama
Why I watched: First and foremost, I love Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick. And really, who doesn't? I'd seen Election before, in the early 2000s, and was curious if it would still hold up. Spoiler alert! It does, and then some! (Although, with a recent bizarre campaign season and election still in the rearview, there are parts that are less absurd now than they were then...) If you, like me, haven't seen this one in over a decade, I highly recommend rewatching!
You might also like: If only Ferris Bueller's Day Off was streaming somewhere, that would be the *perfect* chaser. But it's not, so I'm going to come out of left field here and suggest Superstar, because Molly Shannon and Will Ferrell as Catholic school students might be the only thing more bizarre and uproarious than Election. (Streaming on Hulu!)
For those of you who haven't seen Election (blasphemy!), a quick recap: The insanely ambitious Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) is running unopposed for the position of student body president, a job that nobody else really wants. But social studies teacher and student government advisor Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) finds Tracy insufferable. He doesn't want to work with her because she had an affair with his best friend and (former) fellow teacher. So he commissions the affable and injured football player Paul Metzler (Chris Klein) to run against her. Throwing one more wrench into the whole scenario, Paul's sister Tammy (Jessica Campbell) decides to run, too, because she's mad at Paul who is (unknowingly) dating the girl that she's in love with. Got it?
In 1999, I might have dubbed Tracy the antagonist. She cares too much, is too prepared, takes the election far too seriously. In other words . . . she's highly qualified for the position. Meanwhile, Paul and Tammy wouldn't even be running if Mr. McAllister hadn't interfered. Because here's the thing, made very clear from their speeches at the assembly: No one but Tracy and Mr. McAllister give a damn about student government. Which is basically Tammy's platform: "I'll immediately dismantle the student government so that none of us will have to sit through one of these stupid elections again!" (For what it's worth, I would have definitely voted for Tammy.) But despite the farce that's being made out of her campaign and beloved position, Tracy keeps trying and Mr. McAllister (the adult and club advisor!) keeps trying to stop her. In the end, I think we have to take Tracy's side, here.
This is Alexander Payne's second film, after Citizen Ruth (1996), and before About Schmidt (2002), Sideways (2004), The Descendants (2011), and Nebraska (2013). In the same vein as his other screenplays, Election is quirky and at times darkly comedic. And the acting/casting is on point. Witherspoon's midwestern accent is over-the-top and the extreme characterization that she brings to the role is unlike anything else we've gotten from her, except maybe Elle Woods. Meanwhile, Broderick's trainwreck of a monotonous life is painfully humorous, pumped up by the subtext that he used to be the high schooler (aka Ferris Bueller) and now he's the one standing in front of a classroom of kids that don't care. (Also, for the last quarter of the movie, he sports a swollen eye from a bee sting, which only amplifies his sardonic one liners. See below.) In short: Election is funny. Really funny. And I think that you're going to (re)enjoy it!