Monday, September 7, 2015

Movie Review: "Election" (1999)

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Director: Alexander Payne
Year: 1999
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 43 minutes

Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) is running for student counsel president. She is a smart girl with a go-getter attitude who will stop at nothing and step on anyone to win. Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) is a teacher and an adviser to the student counsel. He is aware of an affair Tracy had with his fellow teacher and friend Dave Novotny (Mark Harelik), which cost Dave his job and marriage. Because of this, Jim doesn't exactly trust Tracy and starts to meddle in the election, encouraging the popular yet dimwitted Paul Metzler (Chris Klein) to run against her. The stress of the election starts to bleed into Jim's personal and professional life as he starts making choices that will change the course of his future forever. 

"Election" is a dark, off-beat comedy about a high school election with an intelligent and witty Oscar nominated screenplay. The crazy part is it's an MTV movie, which have now become synonymous with crap. This movie, however, is far from it. Reese Witherspoon plays Tracy Flick. Tracy is that studious go-getter we all know from high school, the one who is at school on weekends and gets good grades and always raises their hand in class. Tracy joins every club she can and gets involved as much as possible so she can put it all on her college transcript. She is polite and puts on a friendly face, but not too far from the surface, it's obvious she is willing to step on anyone to get ahead and is extremely self-involved and self-motivated. Jim McAllister is the one teacher in school who is very popular with the students and liked by almost everyone, kid and adult alike. He also is deeply involved with school functions and is the adviser of the student counsel. He also has a bit of a vendetta against Tracy because of the sexual relationship she had with a fellow teacher, a man who also happens to be Jim's best friend, Dave, played by Mark Harelik. This relationship, which was obviously discovered after a short time, cost him his job and marriage, and as Jim said, he's lucky he didn't wind up in jail (because let's be real, if this happened today, the person at fault would be in jail for a long time, most likely). Like we mentioned above, this is a bit a darker comedy and it deals with a lot of taboo subjects, but does so in a very humorous way. When Flick runs for student counsel president, Jim doesn't like the idea of he and Tracy spending extra time together and fears what it might lead to, like him being seduced into cheating on his wife, leading to him ruining his marriage and even potentially losing his job. So, he convinces one of the most popular kids in school, Paul Metzler, played by Chris Kline, to run for president. The only problem is Metzler may be a popular former all-star athlete, but he isn't to bright and is a terrible public speaker. As the election moves on, Jim's life spirals further and further out of control as the stress of it all and his hopes to derail Tracy starts to consume his life.

Matthew Broderick does an excellent job capturing the chaotic, emotional roller coaster Jim rides throughout the movie. He and Reese Witherspoon share a couple of great scenes where a lot is said without so many words. Their passive aggressive tonalities and eyes say it all in these scenes and make for some wonderful tension. Witherspoon is great in her own right, both alone and when sharing the screen with someone else. Her portrayal of Tracy Flick, the ambitious, friendly go-getter with a dark side to her personality garnered a Golden Globe nomination, as well as a place as one of the more iconic characters of the 90's. None of the other actors in the film come close to matching Broderick or Witherspoon's gusto, but that doesn't mean they should be discounted for their additions to the film. Whenever Chris Klein plays a character, it always feels like Chris Klein playing Chris Klein rather than a genuine character. He always pretends to try to be someone else, and not always successfully as it always comes off as, well, maybe that's exactly how Chris Klein is in real life. His character Paul Metzler provides a lot of the surface level humor being that he's pretty ditsy and idiotic, yet well liked and popular. There is a lot of humor to be had in this film and there is some great irony in the story. It has become iconic to this day and is an overall very enjoyable film. It certainly makes us glad we have been out of school for a long time!

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 92%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!
One year ago, we were watching: "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes"

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