Election (1999)

Comedy, Drama
Matthew Broderick, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Klein, Jessica Campbell
A high school teacher's personal life becomes complicated as he works with students during the school elections.
Election successfully combines dark humor and intelligent writing in this very witty and enjoyable film.
  • Paramount Pictures. Company:
  • R Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 07 May 1999 Released:
  • 19 Oct 1999 DVD Release:
  • N/A Box office:

All subtitles:

An outstanding satire10/10
Ethics and Morals

I'm not generally a fan of excessive voice-over and quirky, stylised direction but here it's all done so well. It seems to suffer from that classic "this film didn't make sense" style of review, but it clearly does. A wonderful script with a great mix of slapstick and intelligent comedy and winning performances from Broderick, a brilliant Reese Witherspoon and the normally hapless Chris Klein.

And, yes, it has sex in it. It's hardly titillating and is always completely relevant to the plot. But if you simply hate seeing sex (not nudity, of which there is very little) in films then you won't like it.

It beats Rushmore to the 'best film set in a high school' award.
Cynical - just the way I like them!9/10
This is quite simply one of the finest movies I have ever seen. It has incredible pace and flair, with both the script and the direction demanding equal attention. And it just works so well on so many levels. Whilst it is a political satire, it also stands well as a story in its own right. It's great to see Matthew Broderick in a good film. Reese Witherspoone turns in what I consider to be a career-best, and Chris Klein is wonderfully endearing as a jock with a heart of gold.

What I really love about Election is the way its pace doesn't let up at all. By the time you've finished you feel like you've seen a good two and a half hours of movie. It's the only film I know that seems longer than it is in a good way.

This film made me laugh out loud more than any other I can remember that isn't just a dumb comedy. But Election also doesn't take itself too seriously. The direction can accurately be described as deadpan - with Chris Klein, stripped of his ability to play football, gazing soulfully out to sea, and falling asleep over a book on philosophy. The way that each major character is afforded a voice-over, giving us an amusing insight into their psyche, is a wonderful technique, and the freezeframes of Reese Witherspoone's contorted facial expressions truly are moments to treasure.

What more can I say? Election is smart, funny, and biting. It maintains its brilliance for the entire duration of the movie, and the ending is wholly satisfying. In fact, I can't actually think of one word of criticism. You'll have to search long and hard to find a better film anywhere, which is why I'm giving it a stellar nine out of ten.
Alexander Payne's uncompromising look at highschool politics. Foul-mouthed, sharp and funny5/10
With me, Alexander Payne can do no wrong. Before he entered Hollywood's big league of directors with ABOUT SCHMIDT and SIDEWAYS, he made this remarkable film about a highschool election. But this is hardly your average highschool flick, this is an intelligently written, foul-mouthed film, filled with colorful characters and plenty of laughs in the process.

In a pitch-perfect role, Reese Witherspoon is Tracy Flick, one of those irritating girls that are always in the front row, always raise their hand and wanna do something for the sake of the school, read, for their own resume. Tracy Flick is one of those, a fiercely calculating careerist who will stop at nothing to get the main prize, the office of student body president at Carver High. Since she's running unopposed, nothing seems in her way at getting what she wants, again. History teacher and student government adviser Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick, Ferris Bueller reversed) seems content with his life, but is worn out by his love-less marriage, and by the plight of his best friend and colleague, sacked for sleeping with consenting but under age Tracy Flick. With the coming elections, McAllister is appalled by the prospect of working closely with this little nagging career bitch, and charged with overseeing the proceedings, discreetly sponsors a rival candidate, dumb but popular jock Paul Metzler (Chris Klein), to enter the election. But when Paul's sister Tammy (Jessica Campbell), an embittered and unpopular girl announces her candidacy, the election becomes a really back-biting and nasty affair, with Jim McAllister getting more than he bargained for.

I think this film might appeal even more to adults than teenagers. If you like Alexander Payne's uncompromising approach to his subjects, this will definitely be up your alley, with everything from lesbianism to adultery thrown in the mix. Ideally casted all the way, with Matthew Broderick, after a number of uninteresting roles in lame movies, really making his mark. He gives his role a sort of understatement that makes Mr. McAllister a hopelessly tragic, but utterly lovable loser.

Camera Obscura --- 9/10
Flick for President?8/10
The Academy Award attention heaped on "Sideways" helped to make Alexander Payne a mainstream name among casual film goers, but many of us knew about his talent as a film maker long before. And his two more recent films--"Sideways" and "About Schmidt"--have been much gentler (thought still terrific) than his earlier efforts. Before "Election," Payne had already made "Citizen Ruth," a caustic, bracing satire of the abortion issue, and "Election" continued his penchant for harsh, uncomfortable comedy. I mean that in a good way, though. Payne's movies are funny, but they make you uneasy for laughing at them, and they have sharp, intelligent insights into the attitudes that drive American values.

In "Election," Payne uses a high school class presidential election as an opportunity to lampoon everything that's goofy about the American political system. Just as in our national elections for president, the winner is not necessarily the person with the most integrity, and honesty is a liability, not a virtue. The person who is willing to play dirtiest comes out on top, and elections aren't about who is most qualified but rather about who is most popular. And, the best part about the movie is its acknowledgement of voter apathy. Most Americans don't really give a damn, something that makes them not so different from the majority of high schoolers who don't even understand the point of having a class president to begin with. In fact, in the film's best scene, the assembly at which each candidate gives her/his campaign speech, one of the candidates (who joins the race out of spite) gets the best reception from the crowd when she encourages everyone not to vote at all.

Reese Witherspoon gives a wonderful performance as Tracy Flick, the school's most likely to succeed, whose goodie-goodie exterior hides the fact that she's willing to do just about anything to get ahead. Matthew Broderick is refreshingly unlikable as a social studies teacher who would like to see Tracy fail just once, until the fact that his own life is falling apart turns this wish into an obsession. And Chris Klein has some fun as the dopey, Jesus-following popular guy who becomes Tracy's arch rival, but never really even knows it.

Payne doesn't tidy up his film's moral messages. On the one hand, Tracy is obnoxious, and we want to see her fail as much as Broderick's character does. But she does know how to play the game, and isn't that part of what makes someone a good leader? We sympathize with Broderick up to a point, but his motives really are driven by a personal vendetta, not by any altruistic ideal of right vs. wrong. So if you normally need someone to root for in order to enjoy a movie, you're probably not going to like this one.

But who expects a hero?...I mean, come on, we're talking about American politics here.

Grade: A
A Year Early.5/10

A unique microcosm of politics in the U.S. is shown in "Election", one of the most interesting productions of 1999. Set in a high school, young over-achiever Reese Witherspoon feels that she should be the next student council president. Teacher Matthew Broderick feels that Witherspoon is an evil and manipulative person who just thinks about herself and her own status. Enter dumb jock Chris Klein, who does have a good heart and a fair amount of popularity. Broderick talks him into running and the madness begins. Add Klein's lesbian sister, Broderick's torrid affair and ballot tampering and you have a film that shows its intelligence and shows the lengths that people will go to further their own lives at the expense of others. Neat and smart little satire. Some parts seem to be foreshadowers to the awful presidential election of 2000 between Al Gore and George W. Bush. 4 stars out of 5.