Saturday, January 16, 2010

#389: Election (1999)

Director: Alexander Payne
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Matthew Broderick, Chris Klein & Jessica Campbell

How can a Nebraska high school election make the front page of national newspapers? Do anything you can to stop the overzealous, Straight-A student. Start with getting the popular quarterback to run against her. Does that not do the trick? Then throw in the quarterback’s lesbian sister who plans to overthrow the student board.

This is one of my favorite comedies of all time. It is the movie that first brought Reese Witherspoon critical acclaim, nominating her for a Golden Globe. It is also the first film for Chris Klein, who went on to teen comedy fame with the American Pie films. And of course, Matthew Broderick always chooses some class films. His character goes through hell in this film, and it's easy to say he deserves it, though he maintains his charisma nerdy charisma throughout. It's also interesting to see him play a high school teacher for the first time, a turn-around from his most famous role as Ferris Bueller.

What makes the film so smart is how Mr. Payne demonstrates both the thoughts and the actions of the characters separately. On the outside, George Washington Carver High School is the picture-perfect school, with all teachers being extreme motivators and all students fitting perfectly into their own cliques. Everyone has a smile on their face, and they are all working for the future. At the same time, we see the school's most awarded teacher, Mr. McAllister, setting himself to crush the top student, Tracy Flick, while Tracy has no problems fighting back and threatening to destroy McAllister's personal life.

And you can never go wrong with the soundtrack from Navajo Joe.

Fun Trivia (Stolen from IMDB):

  • In the text of a newspaper article in the film: "If you've paused the film in order to read this entire article, your time would be better spent renting Citizen Ruth (1996) from your local video store. Do you know how hard it is to write these fake few stories for newspaper movie props? I've got better things to do."
  • When Tracy rips up the posters of Paul in the school hallway, the theme form Navajo Joe (1966) (which was also used at the end of Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)) plays in the background.
  • 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.
  • Reese Witherspoon's portrayal of Tracy Flick was voted as the 45th Greatest Movie Performances of All Time by Premiere Magazine.
  • Ranked at #9 on Entertainment Weekly's 50 Best High School Movies (2006)

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