Release Year: 1999
Director: Alexander Payne
Writers: Alexander Payne (screenplay), Jim Taylor (screenplay), Tom Perrotta (based on his 1998 novel Election)
Starring: Matthew Broderick, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Klein, Jessica Campbell, Mark Harelik, Phil Reeves, Molly Hagan, Delaney Driscoll, Colleen Camp, Frankie Ingrassia
Rating: Nominated for 1 Oscar: Best Adapted Screenplay. Nominated for 1 Golden Globe: Best Actress – Comedy or Musical (Reese Witherspoon).
During a highschool election, a teacher’s life becomes increasingly complicated and starts to unravel, particularly due to an overachiever determined to become student body president at all costs.
Before Alexander Payne made a name for himself as a director to watch with his films About Schmidt (2002) and Sideways (2004), he wrote and directed this dark comedy centering around a high school election. McAllister (Matthew Broderick) is the well-liked and very involved teacher who loves his job. Considering the way the plot plays out, its ironic that the thing we hear McAllister teaching in his class is ethics and morals. Broderick (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, 1986) is an excellent match for the character of McAllister, who tries to be a good teacher, good husband, and good person, but does not have the moral fortitude to achieve either and as a result spirals uncontrollably towards his own downfall. This downfall is not orchestrated by the overachieving and highly annoying Tracy Flick, but she is the catalyst that sets it off. Witherspoon (Legally Blonde, 2001) is a perfect match for the scheming, highly determined overachiever, who is at hard lonely, mostly because she is completely unaware of her own shortcomings. Klein (American Pie, 1999) makes his début here as the kind and simple footballer who runs against Tracy. It is noteworthy that he is the only person who makes the morally right choices, even when it might be detrimental to his own progress. This might not result in career advancement or such, but he is the only character who is truly happy and the only one who acts selflessly. The film is funny in a very dark way and has a sharp script, but does not achieve the greatness of some of Payne’s later films. Recommended.
The ending of the movie was reshot, possibly after poor test screenings. The original ending was closer to the ending in the novel, in which Mr. McAllister is working at a car dealership and Tracy comes to visit him before leaving for college.
Picture Copyright: UIP