Although it was Sideways that helped bring Alexander Payne to the forefront of the wider film going, but for me it was Election that brought his talent as a film maker to my attention. This harsh, uncomfortable and chaotic comedy boasts an unusual level of risk and suspense, without loosing the comedic moments that leave you laughing (awkward laughing, but laughing all the same).
Reese Witherspoon is superb as Tracy Flick, the school overachiever, whose butter-wouldn’t-melt exterior hides the fact that she’s ruthless enough to do just about anything to get ahead of the competition or get what she wants. Matthew Broderick is equally good as a slightly unlikable social studies teacher sick of seeing the likes of Tracy succeed when his life has fallen into a rut.
It was also enjoyable to see Chris Klein as the dopey, religious popular guy who unwittingly becomes Tracy’s arch rival, which makes it all the more disappointing that following on from his time in American Pie, his career never took off in the way it could have.
In Election, the films moral message is left ambiguous. On the one hand, you love seeing Tracy fail because of her obnoxious nature and you sympathize with Broderick up to a point, but his ever more drastic actions makes it hard to fully back him. This isn’t film with good vs. evil, but rather varying shades of grey clashing with each other, which makes this a lot more complex than most comedies of the time and holds up a lot better also.
If you liked: Almost Famous, Cruel Intentions, Pleasantville