Election (1999) / Comedy-Drama
MPAA Rated: R for strong sexuality, sex-related dialogue, language and a scene of drug use
Running Time: 103 min.
Cast: Matthew Broderick, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Klein, Jessica Campbell, Delaney Driscoll, Colleen Camp
Director: Alexander Payne
Screenplay: Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor (based on the novel by Tom Perrotta)
Tracy Flick (Witherspoon, Cruel Intentions) is an ambitious overachieving high school busybody running for class president. Jim McAllister (Broderick, Godzilla) is a teacher at the school in charge of the election and is hell-bent against seeing Flick succeed to the job, since he feels she was partially responsible for his best friend losing his teaching job due to an affair with said Flick. He also fears he will be tempted himself since her winning the election would mean she would be working closely with him and he fears the same result that happened to his friend will happen to him.
Mr. McAllister decides to spur the school's most popular football player Paul (Klein, American Pie), a popular but not-so-bright loveable jock, to run against her. Paul's lesbian sister (Campbell, The Safety of Objects) then attempts to sabotage the election and run herself since the girl she is interested in is now going out with Paul. With all of the elements in place, McAllister tries to keep things together, but with so much volatility in the mix, it's easier said than done.
Election is one of the most refreshingly original and vibrant "teen comedies" to come out in a very long time. Based on the novel by Tom Perrotta, the script and direction by Alexander Payne (Citizen Ruth, About Schmidt) is energetic perfection. The actors are perfectly cast in their roles, with Reese Witherspoon stealing the show as the tempestuous Flick, who will do anything to get her way. Broderick gives his best performance since Glory, and is fun to watch as the anti-Ferris (Bueller), who tries to bend the rules of ethics, but soon learns his own lesson that every unethical action, no matter how insignificant, can carry large results.
Election is one of the funniest and most impressive films of 1999. It's sad that it didn't fare as well as other more inferior teen comedies of that year. Winner of the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Screenplay and it's well-deserved. As far as best comedy of 1999, I'm going to give Election my vote.
©2000 Vince Leo