by Scott Weinberg
That's not to say that Rushmore is not an excellent movie. It is. I just kept noticing similarities in them, like plot and overall respect for the viewer. Election is subtle, but it's also quite harsh. It's nice to see a movie (or two, even) that are not completely recycled and predictable crap. The fact that they are both "high school" movies makes it that much more impressive.Let's face it, it doesn't take a lot of brain power to make $59 million dollars with a high school movie. (I've done it three times and blown all the profits on kangaroo meat futures.) In the last 18 months or so, we've been treated to a "high-school movie" revival with the likes of Ten Things I Hate About You, Varsity Blues, Can't Hardly Wait, She's All That, Teaching Mrs. Tingle, Drive Me Crazy, Jawbreaker, Disturbing Behavior, The Faculty, Cruel Intentions, The Rage: Carrie 2, and a few other I can't think of now, but that's a big enough list, so get off my back. With this resurgence in full swing, it's likely that one or two smart ones get made. Well, if I had to sit through all of those titles, Election would make it all worth it.
"Election is Rushmore's cool twin sister."
Just as Say Anything and The Breakfast Club occasionally raised the bar of the eighties teen movies, the same can be said for Election (yes, and Rushmore). To think that Election was produced by MTV films makes it even more amazing. (Yeah, I thought Joe's Apartment was kinda funny, but sometimes your brain gets a little hungry.) Other factors that make Election truly excellent are the performances and its sheer unpredictability.
Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon, in a truly great performance) is that girl in high school you wanted to slap, then screw. She's the little miss perfect and she knows it. She makes no bones about her cutthroat ambitions and grade grubbing. Mr. McAllister (Matthew Broderick, who should be grateful he gets casted in this stuff instead of only Godzilla or Inspector Gadget sequels) sees through Tracy's act, and truly despises her. So he recruits Paul Metzler (Chris Klein, who's great at playing slow but sweet, here and in American Pie as well) to run against Tracy in the high school presidential election. Paul's a really nice guy, and his scenes with a boiling mad Tracy are priceless. Suffice to say that the election gets a little heated, especially when Paul's little sister Tammy (Jessica Campbell, just flawless) enters the race.
Not one of Election's characters are stereotypes or unrealistic morons. (Although the school principal comes pretty close.) None of the subplots will turn out the way you expect, and the ending is simply anti-Hollywood and quite satisfying. When Election had its theatrical run, I predicted that Reese Witherspoon would earn an Oscar nomination for her performance, and I stick by that now. If her Tracy had been even a little more bitchy or a little less sympathetic, the movie simply wouldn't have worked. Although she's a selfish little bitch, you never really feel that she's the villain.
It's a tight and extremely clever movie. Although I wouldn't classify it as a 'laugh-out-loud' comedy, there are many lines of dialogue that will shock you and make you laugh. It's a subtle allegory about fair play, honesty, loyalty and the difference between morals and ethics.You have to love a movie that works on this many levels: It's worth watching for the acting alone, but the screenplay is wonderful and it has some real depth. It has some things to say, but it doesn't beat you over the head. Most of all, it's just a damn entertaining movie that will satisfy your brain too.
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originally posted: 01/14/00 10:43:15