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Academy Award® Nominee
Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) is a popular teacher and student government adviser, and has been named Teacher of the Year three times during his 12 years at George Washington Carver High, but... View more >
Starring Matthew Broderick, Reese Witherspoon, Jeanine Jackson... View more >
Please Note: Reader Reviews are submitted by the readers of The BigScreen Cinema Guide and represent their own personal opinions regarding this movie, and do not represent the views of The BigScreen Cinema Guide, or any of its associated entities.
Jan 25, 2000
You'll have to be in the right kind of mood for this dark comedy. Slapstick comedy it ain't, and that's okay. The recent string of teen movies that find their humor from traditional contrived set-ups and clever-cute lines delivered by baseless characters that are "cooler" than anyone in real life will not be found here. Yes, the whole movie centers around a high school, a few odd students, and one of it's teachers played by Matthew Broderick whom we've never stopped calling Ferris Bueller since his unforgettable high school skip-out role. But this isn't your standard teen movie fare. In fact, I doubt anyone under 18 would even recognize the satire or appreciate it after being weened on Adam Sandler and Dawson's Creek. ELECTION is funny because it is not what you expect and because of Reese Witherspoon's great performance as a snotty priss who will do anything to become class president. There's probably a person like her at sometime in everyone's high school and she nailed the part. Her teacher Mr McAllister played by Broderick recognizes her as an annoying overachiever and he'd rather she fail at her campaign so he convinces the school jock to run against her. Broderick is very good in his role, showing he can be funny without being an in-your face clown. His character's life slowly crumbles and this "2 time teacher of the year" commits more than a few not so honorable actions.
Having seen the much funnier movie RUSHMORE earlier this year, I was let down a bit. That film was also about an off-kilter high school student who believed he must achieve everything even though he was either horribly unqualified or was willing to cheat to get it. ELECTION had a similar dark tone, having us watch the character endure personal destruction or humiliation that appears so odd we laugh, but it didn't have the oddness or irreverence I wanted. Nothing so bizarre that I laughed louder than an amused chuckle, although there were many of those. Terrible things happen to characters lives, things that if happened to a friend of yours, would be a tradegy or at least something to be very upset about but here we are meant to laugh at it because the characters were indeed, amusingly lame.
It never lost my interest and I enjoyed almost every scene and word spoken but I didn't walk out feeling uplifted or amazed. Sound and picture were non-events because it was cloudy or dark the whole movie and many scenes were standard shots inside of a high school. The soundtrack was lacking because it only provided audio clues to what is supposed to be funny. Great performances by Broderick and Witherspoon, both sold me and I look forward to more of their work.
Jan 25, 2000
Has it crossed your mind that the morality play is a dead genre? Perhaps you've wondered what's become of sharply-written satire?
Alexander Payne's "Election" works as both.
First, its packaging is modern, almost trendy. Not screechy and obnoxious like handfuls of other teen films currently being produced or peddled. "Election's" charm comes largely from its narrative technique: the audience gets the stories directly from the voice-overs of major characters. Hence we witness various perspectives that combine to create quite a jumbled unity. Payne, the director and co-writer (along with Jim Taylor - based on Tom Perrotta's novel), gives us digestible units that quicken pace and intensify plot. The result? We come away licking our lips, our appetites teased by the delicious ironies.
Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) teaches Social Studies at an Omaha's George Washington Carver High School. He seems to get along fine with his wife, his job - his life. What trips him up is anger at an over-achieving student. This girl, Tracy Enid Flick (Reese Witherspoon), is both officious and hard-working, a member of all the extra-curriculars she can find. What's clever about the way in which she is drawn is the ambiguity. Tracy labors but displays immodesty; she thrives without a father or large family income, but her abrasiveness keeps friends away. A colleague of McAllister's, Dave Novotny, exploits Tracy's isolation, crashing the border of appropriate student-teacher relationships. One of McAllister's motivations, of course, is Novotny's ruined life: "Mr. M" cajoles the popular but injured athlete Paul Metzler (Chris Klein) into running against Tracy for president of the student government. Complicating the situation even more, Paul's sister Tammy (Jessica Campbell) decides to run! Her motive? To get revenge on her brother's girlfriend, the same girl on whom Tammy has a major crush.
Meanwhile, Jim McAllister suffers from the wandering eye. Although his problem is less desperate than Novotny's, he is not averse to having an affair. Ironically, the target of his random affections is Novotny's ex-wife Linda (Delaney Driscoll). Needless to say, McAllister's life is made no easier because of his immaturity. His choices seem to go awry throughout the course of the story, in fact, particularly during the counting of the votes in the student council race.
The title "Election" is an apt one. Not only does it address the climactic plot device, but the personal choices of all the main characters. The title's allegorical, in a sense. Early on we see McAllister's discussion of the difference between ethics and morals. With each succeeding bad move the characters make, the original discussion resonates. Some of these plot twists are very amusing, as when McAllister throws together a pop-quiz simply to occupy his last period class, allowing him time to run to the pharmacy for flowers and other necessaries with which to commit his adultery. Other decisions are more ominous. They all show the shady side of humanity, though.
Matthew Broderick demonstrates again that he is able and reliable. Subtle streaks of gray at his temples, Broderick plays McAllister as a misguided but ultimately decent man. This actor seems to have a talent for playing the straight man - here when a series of mishaps flatten his reputation and his happiness. As Tracy Flick -- a good and perky name for this young woman - Witherspoon crafts a paragon of uptightness. When the frame freezes on her unflattering expressions, we chuckle at her superficiality. As the well-liked Paul Metzler, whose rich father has bought him a new truck, Chris Klein is extremely likable but equally shallow. He is concerned about his sister's emotional problems, and even tries to be a good sport with his obsessed rival, Tracy. But during a sequence wherein the main characters pray privately, we see Paul's concern lies mostly in trivial matters - similar to the prayers of Tracy and Tammy.
The flaws in the film have to do with its R rating. There's a tonal nosedive when Dave Novotny suddenly tells an appalled Jim McAllister about his relations with Tracy. A few other depictions of sexuality, some reminiscent of the crudeness of the Brothers Farrelly, pull the narrative out of the range of family viewers.
Yet even these vulgar strokes of characterization serve to widen our distance, to sketch the characters as more gray than any other shade. Should we hate Mr. M for his porno collection, or like him for his three teacher-of-the-year awards? Is Tracy to be pitied for her pushy mother, or hated for her superior attitude? And Tammy - do we admire her dreaminess or despise her stylish nihilism?
Director Alexander Payne has said, "It just happens to be a coincidence that high school movies are so hot right now. I'm grateful for the trend, because it helped me get this film made. But I lament that it could get lumped in with these other high school movies." Conclusion: "Election" will appeal to much wider audiences than "10 Things I Hate About You." It covers different grounds than other teen-oriented films, succeeding largely because of a mix of wit and caustic insight.
Jan 25, 2000
In the movie Election, Matthew Broderick is a history teacher that is the advisor of the Student Government Organization. Well, it's the time to elect a new student body president and the candidates are Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon), an overacheiver, Paul mexler the star quarterback that recently broke his leg, and Tammy Mexler, his sister who is a lesbian. this movie is delightfully funny. Matthew Broderick tries to stop Flick from taking the office. Among this week of events, it takes it's toll on Broderick
This movie reminded me of Rushmore, a smart film set in a high school setting. However I liked this one a lot more than Rushmore. It has more sexual innuendos than Rushmore and that's where a lot of the humor comes from. This movie may look a little "out there" but it is definitely one to see.
My Rating: *** (3) out of **** (4)
Jan 25, 2000
Election is one of the better movies I have seen this year, probably my favorite comedy since There's Something About Mary. Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon are both excellent in their roles of teacher and student. The movie is slow at times and might have been a little too long, but the amount of laughs in the movie makes up for it. I wouldn't call this a great movie, but I did enjoy it and I would recommend it to anyone looking for some laughs.
My rating: *** 1/2 out of *****
Jan 25, 2000
Reese Witherspoon is at it again. Her energy alone can practically carry a movie (if you haven't seen "Freeway," go rent it NOW) and I predict a bright future for one of Hollywood’s rising stars. In "Election," she is running for president of her high school class. What makes the movie work is a quirky cast and good writing. Some very interesting film techniques are also utilized, such as freeze frame during voice over narration and even words written on the screen to point out certain events. This was surprisingly effective rather than becoming the distraction that it could have been. "Election" manages to comment on not just the high school experience, but on morals and ethics (and practicing what one preaches). It’s a fine film.
10-point scale rating: 7
Jan 25, 2000
The best teen movie of 1999, it much better than Varsity Blues and 10 Things I Hate About You. At least this movie is funny and got something new unlike the others.
Jan 25, 2000
***** out of *****
Suggested Rating - PG13 - Some sexual obsemeties, and suggestive scenes.
May 20, 2003
The well-written "Election," is a eye-opening film about school elections and elections in general. The film takes place at a school where a class presdient is being elected. Running for school president is a peaky schoolgirl mname Tracy Flick who will do anything to win an election. But high school teacher Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) had other plans to keep her from winning. Aside from the smart directing and writing from Alexander Paynes, it was Reese Witherspoon who won me over. My vote is cast for this movie.
Jul 21, 2003
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