Main cast: Matthew Broderick (Jim McAllister), Reese Witherspoon (Tracy Flick), Chris Klein (Paul), Jessica Campbell (Tammy), Molly Hagan (Diane McAllister), Colleen Camp (Judith Flick), Nicholas D’Agosto (Larry Fouch), and Phil Reeves (Principal Walt Hendricks)
Director: Alexander Payne
Hands up everyone who has ever hated that smug overachiever in your class. Tracy Flick is the epitome of all the arrogant, snobby, workaholic students who skew the grade curve in the class. The kind of person one would call in need of a life on a good day. She also has an affair with the PE teacher that ultimately causes the firing of the (married) besotted teacher.
Jim McAllister, the most popular teacher in the school and the PE teacher’s friend, is not exactly a fan of Tracy. It is aggravated by the fact that Tracy is a determined overachiever, using everyone and everything as a stepping stone to be on top. And the fact that Tracy is the only person who can answer his questions in class is particularly a thorn in Jim’s hide. When Tracy runs for school president uncontested, Jim decides that this evil must be stopped. He manipulates dumb football player Paul to oppose her. Meanwhile, Paul’s sister Tammy loses her girlfriend to Paul. She refuses to go down whimpering, and on behalf of all alienated lesbians everywhere, she runs for presidency too! It’s going to be one helluva fight.
Meanwhile Jim has an affair with the PE teacher’s now ex-wife, with dire consequences. Soon all things hurtle into one out-of-control spiral when the Ethics teacher start going overboard in breaking the rules, all in the name of stopping that girl.
To say Election a delightfully evil and witty dark comedy is right on the mark. I love this movie – it’s funny and it pokes fun at all the right targets exceedingly well. Matthew Broderick is sporting and humble enough to play the really bumbling mild-mannered Jim whose misguided attempts at saving the system ruin only himself in the end. The poor man truly believes he’s in love with the woman he is having an affair with. Jim is a man who doesn’t know he is extremely bored with his routine; midlife crisis has settled down and roosted in his belfry without him even knowing it. Not that Jim is a hero – this man is merely human. The man is bored with his wife who fails to excite him intellectually or sexually, he has to watch high-school themed pornographic movies to get himself up to the task of getting his wife with child, and ultimately he is fast losing control of his life.
Likewise, Tracy is wonderful as a cold, determined person to whom success – absolute success – is not an option, but a must. To her, everything must be perfect, detailed, planned to the nitty details. Yet the movie also reveals a few cracks in her, when she looks at her yearbook and realizes that hardly anyone has signed it. And there’s a scene where she reflects that yes, she does miss the teacher she has an affair with, for he treats her like a human for the first time in her life.
Then there’s Tammy, who turns the tables on everyone by declaring that should she win, she would abolish the whole stupid electoral system. “Who cares?” she says defiantly to the rousing standing ovation of her peers. She does all this in the name of love, and she’s the closest to heroic material in this movie. And she gets rewarded in the end too, in a wonderfully ironic manner.
Election is indeed a movie that is wonderful in its moral ambiguity and thought-provoking satire. Kudos to MTV for making this gem (there’s hope for that studio yet), and a thousand applause for the director and scriptwriter and the wonderful cast. A great movie indeed!