Election Review
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When I was in high school, I ran for class treasurer three years in a row—and, also for three years in a row, I ended up losing the election to someone who was less responsible, worse at math, and much more popular than I was. Why I didn’t just give up, I have no idea, but I just stuck with it—just like the overeager presidential hopeful in Election.

Overachiever Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) is determined to become Carver High School’s next student body president. She has the buttons, the posters, and all the enthusiasm in the world. But student government advisor and devoted history teacher Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) can’t stand the thought of working side-by-side with Tracy for an entire year—so he decides to find someone to run against her.

Mr. M’s opponent of choice is Paul Metzler (Chris Klein), a rich and popular football star who, following an injury that put him out of the game, is searching for meaning in life. But once Paul agrees to throw his hat in the ring, things get…messy. Paul’s closeted lesbian sister, Tammy (Jessica Campbell), decides to run against her brother—just to get him back for stealing the woman of her dreams. And Tracy, convinced that Mr. M is behind it all, declares war.

Meanwhile, Mr. M has plenty of other problems to deal with at home. His wife, Diane (Molly Hagan), is desperate to get pregnant—but he’s starting to have feelings for his best friend’s ex-wife.

Director Alexander Payne’s Election is an appropriately dark and sinister comedy. After all, what’s darker or more sinister than high school? Payne (who also co-wrote the script, which was based on the novel by Tom Perrotta) captures all of the spying, the plotting, the sabotage, and the teenage backstabbing remarkably well—yet he portrays it all in such a suitably exaggerated, tongue-in-cheek manner that, no matter how much you may have hated high school, you won’t be able to stop yourself from laughing along.

Though I could have done with a little less of McAllister’s personal life (and a whole lot more of the high school drama), Broderick is perfectly cast as the mild-mannered teacher on the verge of a breakdown—but the teenage characters easily steal the spotlight. Witherspoon is delightfully grating as Tracy—and she somehow manages to make the obnoxious overachiever outrageously entertaining. In fact, though it may not have won her an Oscar, it’s by far my favorite of her roles. Klein, meanwhile, is lovably dim (and absolutely adorable) as the sweet and gullible jock.

Still, Campbell’s Tammy could be my favorite character of them all. She’s amusingly angry at the world (but, then again, who wasn’t at that age?), yet she’s refreshing—because she just doesn’t care. Instead of getting caught up in some silly high school election, she vows to dismantle the student government if she’s elected. She’s cynical and conniving, and she’ll go to any lengths to get what she wants—almost like an angry, bitter Ferris Bueller.

High school elections have never been quite this much fun. It doesn’t matter whether you were an overachiever or an angry outsider in high school; you’re sure to get a laugh out of Election.

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