Februrary 6, 2013
Matthew Broderick, Reese
Witherspoon, and Chris Klein
Back in my review of The Quick and the Dead, I
that Sam Raimi is probably my all time favorite movie director.
He is one of those rare people out there, along with maybe
Cameron, where if they make a movie I am going to see it. No
questions asked. I just trust them because I know that
they make (based on their track record) is going to be good.
aren't too many directors out there who I would give that kind of carte
blanche. Heck, I wouldn't even give that kind of an honor to
I like most of Tarantino's stuff, but I don't like
until I started writing this review, I thought that Sam Raimi and James
Cameron were the only two names that I would put on my list of
must see movie directors.
Ah, but then I remembered Alexander Payne.
Do you know who
Alexander Payne is? No, chances are that you probably don't.
mean, obviously SOME people know him. He has a lot of really
fans in the industry in some really big and important places.
is one of those guys who has been kicking around and making movies and
pulling off hits left and right for years. But in terms of
audience recognition, no. He isn't the type of director who
name mentioned before the title of a movie. Most people,
they are paying attention, have really never even heard of him.
If you know Alexander Payne at all, you will probably know him from his
two most recent hit movies, Sideways and The Descendants.
those won huge critical praise when they originally came out, and both
of them found a pretty good audience. And in both cases, of
course you know how they were marketed. Both of were lauded
"Alexander Payne's big breakout mainstream hit!"
But here is the thing. Alexander Payne made a bunch
of good movies before he ever made Sideways. In fact I will
flat out tell
you that Sideways and The Descendants are my two least
Alexander Payne movies. They are both still really good, of
course, Alexander Payne is incapable of making a bad movie.
But his two mainstream hits are nowhere near as dark
and cynical and as awesome as his first three movies were.
Election came out in 1999 and it was Alexander Payne's second movie.
I'm not going to mention what his first movie was, because
one is obscure as hell and it is easily one of the bigger undiscovered
gems on this entire countdown. Oh and also, because I am
about that particular movie tomorrow. But Election came out
1999 and it was the first movie where a lot of people really kind of
took notice of how talented and how quirky this guy Alexander Payne
was never a huge hit. And it was certainly never nominated
Best Picture or anything. But I do remember it was quite the
little sleeper when it originally came out. It was one of
randomly awesome quirky little movies that came out in the summer of
which I will tell you over and over and over was my favorite year for
movies ever. Seriously, pick any random movie from 1999.
Just grab something random from Netflix. Chances
if it came out that year, it is going to be awesome.
And Election was in the top 5% even for that year
Election is the story of a high school teacher in Nebraska named Jim
McAllister. He is played by Matthew Broderick and, well, he
kind of like the most awesome teacher you ever had when you
in high school. You know the type. The
him. He shows up at all the events. He runs the
keeps people laughing in class. He encourages the
kids to refer to him as "Mr. M." Heck, he even
dresses up as
the school mascot during the pep rallies.
If there ever was a teacher who was more beloved than Mr. McAllister,
it would be hard to find him.
Mr. M receiving his Teacher of the Year award
But here is the thing. Mr. McAllister might be perfect on the
outside, and all the kids might love him, but he has a very
that he is hiding. In fact this whole movie is full of deep
carefully hidden dark secrets that people are hiding. It is
what makes Election so
The kids all love Mr. M, and of course Mr. M loves all of the kids.
Well, except for one of them.
There is one student at Carver High School that he just absolutely
That's right. It is little miss go-dooder type A extrovert
herself, Miss Tracy Flick.
Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) is the absolute embodiment of
everything that he hates. He looks at her every day in class.
sees her raising her hand and being a show off. He sees her
selfish and self-absorbed, and getting straight A's, and treating all
the other students like they are her
underlings, and all he feels is rage. All he sees every day
in his class is this
creature from the nether regions that must be destroyed.
Oh, and did I mention that Mr. M's best friend got fired for making
inappropriate advances on Tracy a year ago?
Yeah that is also a factor.
M hates everything that Tracey stands for in the world. He
her ambition. He hates her assertiveness. He hates
demeanor. He hates her success. He hates her
self-absorbedness. He basically just
hates everything about her.
And when he sees a chance to stomp
on her dreams, and crush this little 17 year old Little Miss Perfect to
ground, he decides he is going to take it.
Oh this little bitch is going down
Mr. McAllister is the chair of the school election committee.
And when he sees that Tracy is running for student body
president, and that nobody is opposing her, he decides to do
something about it. After all, he reasons, what good is an
if there is only one candidate? Do we really want to live
in a country where the people don't get to choose between two
Mr. M explaining to his government class how freedom of choice works
Mr. M goes to the most popular boy in school (Paul Metzler), who
also happens to be the star of the football team, and he encourages him
to run against Tracy for class president. After all,
tells Paul, it would be good for the school. Don't you want
things that are good for the school? Don't you want to show
spirit for how much you love Carver High?
Paul, naturally, is not all that bright.
And he is quickly convinced that this is a really good idea.
Paul Metzler, potential class president/blowjob enthusiast
And this sets the stage for one of the darkest, and nastiest, and
most cynical pieces of filmmaking I have ever seen in my life.
mean, good lord. You want to talk about a cynical
check out some early Alexander Payne films. Because once
takes off and starts going down that dark road of destruction, it just
doesn't stop. It never lets up. None of the
characters is safe. This is one of those movies
that is so darkly funny, and is so dang uncomfortable, that you spend
half the movie laughing before you realize it really isn't even a
In fact, that is an excellent description for a
movie like this. Election. A nasty little satire
make you laugh the entire time, but is really a drama. And
you will kind of feel bad afterwards for how much you laughed at it.
makes movies like that better than Alexander Payne does.
Tracy: "I want to be your class president."
Random Student #1 Off Camera: "Eat me!"
Random Student #2 Off Camera: "Eat me raw!"
I remember seeing Election in 1999 and I was like "woah." I
never seen anything like it before. It was one of those
that I loved, but I couldn't quite put my finger on -why- I loved it.
I knew that it was cynical. And I love cynical
I knew that it was funny. And obviously I love
movies. I knew that it was intelligent and it had a good
But I just couldn't put my finger on exactly why I liked it
It is a really really hard movie (and it still is) to try to
describe to someone.
You think that Election is a teen movie. Well it's not.
You think that it is a parody of American politics. Well it
kinda is, but it is a lot more than that too.
think that it is a comedy. Well calling an Alexander Payne
a comedy is like calling Abraham Lincoln "a guy who had a
Yeah okay, technically that is true, but it is only a part of
overall picture. Alexander Payne movies are generally way
than just calling them a comedy.
Also, at one point a bee stings Matthew Broderick in the eye
It took me a while, but in the end, I was finally able to put my finger
on why I liked Election
so much. I liked it because it was good. I mean,
this is a
movie that (like all Alexander Payne movies) has always been nearly
impossible to classify. It is not that
quotable. It is more drama than comedy. It
is depressing as hell. And none of the characters
(except for maybe Paul) are even remotely likable. Yet it
works. And the reason it works is because the
director is freaking amazing at what he does.
And that was what finally sold me on Alexander Payne movies.
This movie really doesn't have all that many great things
for it. The story wouldn't work in the hands of 98% of the
moviemakers out there. But Alexander Payne can spin straw
gold and he does it beautifully here. I can't think of a
other filmmaker who could have pulled off this movie. It is
Alexander Payne slice of life midwest cynicism masterpiece through and
Oh, and like most (all) Alexander Payne masterpieces, the music and the
editing are really quirky and add a lot to the experience.
Like the random appearance of the God Cam
And the usage of the freeze frame
Before I sign off and send you on your merry little way to go watch
Election again (or, if you are lucky, for the first time) I should say
something about the actors.
Now obviously I consider this to be
an Alexander Payne movie more than anything else. Like I said
I can't imagine anyone but him being able to pull off this movie.
I have to give special props to Matthew Broderick as Mr. McAllister.
I mean, Matthew Broderick is a guy who 15 years earlier had
Bueller. For a decade and a half he was known as the teenager
was the biggest scourge to teachers on the face of the earth.
then 15 years later, of course he turns the tables and becomes the
teacher who is the scourge to one student. I always loved
little quirk about this film. Election is the movie where
Bueller becomes a teacher and he decides to take his revenge.
Oh yeah, and Mr. M is also an incredible dick when you get to know him.
So the movie's got that going for it too. Which is
Of course Reese Witherspoon is the actor who most people talk
about when they talk about Election. And for good reason too.
Her role as Tracy Flick was the role of a lifetime.
can't imagine anyone being able to pull off that character quite like
In fact, here is a little trivia note for you. Reese
Witherspoon's performance as Tracy Flick was ranked #45 on the
list of the
100 Greatest Film Performances of All Time by Premiere Magazine.
She is the star of the movie and she owns every second she is on screen.
Even if, you know, she is annoying and you still kind of want to see
Tracy get punched in the face.
Tracy Flick is better than you
However, before I sign off, I have to give a special mention to Chris
Klein. The often forgotten Chris Klein. Who when I
saw this movie, I immediately thought was adorable.
performance as Paul Metzler is one of my favorite performances by any
actor in any teen movie ever. He is just so stupid and so
endearing. He really doesn't have a dishonest bone in his
He wouldn't even know how to be mean to somebody if he tried.
Yet he gets thrown into this Machiavellian power struggle
Mr. M and Tracey. And he is so dumb that he doesn't have any
what kind of forces he is up against. In my opinion he has
been the lynchpin that sort of holds this movie together.
He is also the only really likable character in the movie, and you do
kind of need that.
Paul Metzler praying for luck in his election bid. And also
thanking God for his large penis.
By the way, rumor
has it that Chris Klein never even intended to be an actor.
He was just some football player at Papillion-LaVista High
in Omaha (where they filmed the movie.) And when Alexander
came out to Omaha do some advance location scouting, the two of them
ran into each other and Payne realized that this kid would be a perfect
Paul Metzler. So Payne gave him a role in the movie,
Election became a
hit, and then because of Election Chris Klein got a role in American
Pie. And then for a couple of years he kind of kicked around
Hollywood as a
younger version of Keanu Reeves.
Well I know that there aren't many Chris
Klein fans out there in the world, but I will buck the trend and say
that I have always been one. I have always been a fan of his
because of Election. He is so perfect for this role, and he
sweet and dumb and honest and endearing, that you can't help but feel
bad for him.
It is a shame that more people don't remember how good he was
it (and, in particular, how this was his first acting job ever!)
scene where Mr. M tries to get Paul to pick between apples and oranges,
and Paul wants to choose pears or bananas, is a personal favorite.
So there you go. Election. A great movie with fun
actors, quirky editing, and a genius of a director.
am not 100% sure that you can really call this an underloved movie,
because it still has a TON of fans out there. But then again
it is also
less well known now than it was a decade ago, so who knows. I
just wanted to write about it because I love to rave about Alexander
Payne, and because I want people to remember Chris Klein. Oh,
it is a perfect set up for the movie I am going to write about
tomorrow. And you will never believe it, but that movie is
more cynical and even more dark than Election is.
That is not very easy to do.
DON'T VOTE! SCREW THE ELECTION! THESE ELECTIONS ARE
This movie has a very hard R rating. Don't be
thinking it is just a cute little teen movie, it's not. I
the mistake of watching this with my parents a couple of years ago, and
I had forgotten
had racy it was and how inappropriate Mr. Novotny's relationship with
Tracy was. Oops. Trust me, there's nothing more fun
sitting with your mom and dad through an endless cavalcade of "Fuck me,
Mr. McAllister, fuck me." Yeah, let's not ever do that again.
Don't see the Japanese remake of this movie, "Erection."
thought it would be the same type of movie but it wasn't.
don't make the same mistake that I did.
P.P.P.S. Want to see a really funny video that compares the
storyline of Election to Hilary Clinton vs Barack Obama? Well
favorite IMDB user reviews about Election:
uncompromising look at highschool politics. Foul-mouthed, sharp and
funny - 28 October 2006
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.
Cynical - just the way I
like them! - 20 February 2000
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.
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
voiceover, giving us an amusing insight into their pysche, is a
wonderful technique, and the freezeframes of Reese Witherspoone's
contorted facial expressions truly are moments to treasure.
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.
One of the best dark
comedies ever - 15 July 2003
is easily my favorite comedy and one of my top ten favorite movies of
all time. It brings out the best in most of its cast and the stylistic
quality of the film is both outrageous and subtle at the same time.
However, the most amazing part of Election is that it makes an
incredible movie and bases it around a subject so simple as a high
But do not be fooled by its simplicity in basic
plot because hiding behind its summary is a film that truly was
underappreciated and very underrated. MTV has never and will never
again get a movie as stunning as this.
Reese Witherspoon gives
the performance of her career by playing Tracy Flick, a neurotic,
self-obsessed go getter with a somewhat dark past that puts her on edge
with Jim McCalister, a teacher who truly will stop at nothing to bring
I will not say any more about Election except that those who have not
seen this movie are truly missing out on an amazing film
A brilliant satire - 18
is the film Alexander Payne made before "About Schmidt" and "Sideways"
and it put him on the map. It's easy to see why. It's smart and
intelligent as well as being very funny. It's a brilliant satire on the
way American political campaigns are run and it's set in a high school.
(It's probably more effective than many other political satires set in
real seats of Government). Tracy Flick is the ambitious (and ruthless)
student running for student president. She has the brash confidence of
someone convinced they are always right. She talks in clichés and
quotes Thoreau. If she could put into practice some of the things she
pulls from books she might actually make a half-decent leader but Tracy
is oblivious to everything that is real and human and fallible. Tracy,
in other words, is bad for people and the only person to see it is her
teacher and it's his job to oversee the election.
parts, Reece Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick are pitch-perfect.
Witherspoon had yet to establish herself and Broderick's career had
stalled. "Election" put both of them on track and I doubt if either of
them has given a better performance. In this film Payne was honing that
serio-comic tone that would come to fruition in "Sideways" but already
he was proving a master at establishing mood and a brilliant director
of actors. He is so good at the serious stuff, in fact, that you would
like him to jettison the comedy altogether, though here you're glad he
doesn't. This is laugh out loud funny. What it isn't is another
American High School Comedy. File it next to "Rushmore".
What a hoot! - 14 July
was one of the wittiest, most enjoyable movies I've seen in a long
time. People who didn't like it just don't get that dry, dark-comedy
sense of humor. Reese Witherspoon was outstanding--she should be
considered come Oscar time. The cinematography made the whole
movie--those freeze-frames were hilarious. It was amazing how Matthew
Broderick's character evolved from Mr. Joe Teacher of the Year into
this ruthless, cunning, person set on revenge. And I was on his side!
Tracy Flick was so annoying, you wanted her to fail. Everyone knew
someone like that in High School--one of those goody-two-shoes,
brown-nosing asses who made you want to puke. Chris Klein was quite
effective as the mind-numbingly stupid but sweet-hearted jock who
wouldn't hurt a fly. Mind you, this is not like some Adam Sandler
mindless comedy.(Nothing against Adam, I like him too!) It's quite
clever and well-done and even though it's set in a high school, the
humor is much more adult. I don't think it can be fully appreciated by
young people who have not really been out in the world and seen how
people get ahead by stomping on others. Thumbs up
High school comedy for
grown-ups - 25 February 2002
high school comedy for adults. In an institution as authoritarian as
the average American high school, elections for the student body are
exercises in tokenism. This doesn't stop one Tracey Flick (Reese
Witherspoon) from putting her all into getting elected president. She
has some competition from a dim jock, Paul Metzler (Chris Klein), who
is put up to it by teacher Jim Macalister (Matthew Broderick).
Macalister wants to revenge his former colleague Novotny who fell foul
of Tracey's charms and was dismissed but instead he gets himself into
lots of trouble.
Good dialogue, a fast pace and a cynical
attitude help to make this an effective satire. Political correctness
is seen as just another way of keeping people in line, and when it is
incovenient it is ignored. When Metzler's lesbian sister decides to run
in the election on an anti-authority platform the principal immediately
suspends her for no good reason. The school, named for a distinguished
Afro-American agricultural scientist, George Washington Carver, has
hardly a black in the place (though this is Nebraska). Clever use of
voice-over from several characters rounds out the storyline nicely. The
eternally sunny weather is faintly menacing, somehow. The only weak
point was the ending, something of an anti-climax I thought.
Witherspoon plays Tracey the human tornado with just the right amount
of occasional hesitation to remind us there is a human being inside
there somewhere. Matthew Broderick as the teacher sucked in by her
vortex makes his character's predicament look inevitable. Chris Klein
(in his first role - he was 'discovered' for this film) has a downhome
Keanu Reeves style just right for the part. He and the director
Alexander Payne both come from Omaha, Nebraska, which was used for
location shooting, though I don't think the Chamber of Commerce will be
inviting them back. Middle America comes across as a pretty tightly
buttoned-down place with not a lot of tolerance for odd-balls.
it's refreshing to see a high school comedy with verve and bite, and a
good antidote to `American Pie', in which Chris Klein also appears in a
paler copy of his role here. This film has some parallels with another
school comedy `Rushmore' but here the satire is sharper and the story
Ok, so maybe we're all a
little like Tracy. - 7 May 1999
one writes a biting satire, it logically makes sense that the person
who is insulting should know his or her topic. This is why high school
life has never truly undergone an appropriate cinema vision. We either
get "The Substitute" or "High School High". Either way, it's a sad
collection of overdrawn clichés that don't work anymore.
where "Election" drawns its thin line. Every character in this movie is
a person (or persons) that you know. We've all met a Tracy Flick, Paul
Metzler, or had a teacher like Jim McAllister. Although each character
may be taken to extremes in this movie, you feel for them cause you
Hands down, Reese Witherspoon has proven herself an
incredible actress. She can play all the roles she wants, without
typecasting herself, be it school slut ("Pleasantville"), innocent
virgin ("Cruel Intentions"), or, as "Election" shows, Conniving
Overachiever. This may be her best role yet as she makes you both hate
and love Tracy. You can't stand the fact that what would be typically a
very flat character has so many levels to her. It's so refreshing.
Broderick is the most underrated actor of our time. He needs
recognition already! And don't give me any of that "Ferris Bueller" and
"Glory" stuff. And don't mention "Road to Wellville" and "Godzilla"
either. For such a horrible person as his character tries to be, you
can't help but feel sorry for him because he fails at everything and
you know that streak just isn't gonna stop.
I will confess, I am
a gifted student in my high school, and I know a lot of "Tracy Flick"s.
My classmates are Tracys. My best friends are Tracys. In
fact, I'm a
bit of a Tracy myself. So this movie was so refreshing cause it was so
accurate. Right down to the clubs she was in. And several of my
teachers are McAllister's too. Giving all their time to the school and
then getting nothing but gray hairs in return. It's really quite sad.
for the writing and directing, I'm no expert, but the odd way of
telling the story through 5 or 6 different character's and yet also
from an omnipotent point of view, just may be the funniest thing ever.
What a work. Freeze frames, little notes on the screen, stock
footage...I want to see more works like this. This is great movie
making at a new point of finesse.
Bottom line is this: school
has never looked so real on the silver screen. MTV Films needs to stay
independant and stay in the present (to avoid any "200 Ciggarettes"
disasters again). I swear, this movie is practically a real life
documentary. Even the bathroom pass made of wood that Tracy has rings
true. At least to me. But then again, exiting the movie you seem to
learn something about "morals and ethics". Maybe we all have a little
Tracy in us after all.
favorite trivia about Election:
* Ranked #9 on Entertainment Weekly's 50 Best High School
* Thora Birch left the filming in Omaha on her third day because of
creative differences with the director.
Apples are featured prominently in the movie, usually before trouble
arrives for a character. They are used as an analogy to entice Paul
Metzler to enter the election, an apple tree is shown before Mr.
McAllister is stung by a bee, apples hang above the doorway to Mr.
McAllister's living room right before he discovers his wife knows he
cheated on her, and Mr. McAllister wins the Apple Teacher of The Year
Award at the beginning of the movie.
* Since the movie was
shot in a real high school (Papillion La Vista High School, Omaha,
Nebraska), adjacent classrooms had real class going on while some
scenes for the movie were being done. In the soundtrack, some
background noises come from real teachers and students. The director
decided to leave that in as to give the movie a more realistic sound.
In the gym scenes, since the extras were real high school students, the
director faced the problem of not having enough of them because of the
SAT season, and many of them having already found out the sometimes
tedious process of working as an extra. As a solution for the shots
requiring a full gym to be seen, the director asked the extras to move
two or three times from their seats to look as if there were more
people with the help of editing. The wide shot showing both sides of
the gym was done in less than 20 minutes when the teachers of Papillion
La Vista Highschool asked more students to join the film shooting.
Chris Klein's debut film and his first professional acting job. He was
a student at Millard West High School in Omaha when he was discovered
by Alexander Payne while looking for a school to use for filming
(another one was eventually used). Although a number of other actors
auditioned for Paul, Klein stuck in Payne's mind.
favorite scene in Election:
I already mentioned the applies, oranges, and pears scene, but
since I didn't mention her in the writeup I supposed to should throw a
bone to Tammy Metzler and her speech to the student body about
elections are stupid. I can guarantee you that speech would
that exact same reaction in any high school in America.
Student Body: YEAH!
*student is suspended*
at the IMDB
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