Film Commentary [5-31-99]
Teacher's Hell - - Election

Genre: Comedy

Election is a wickedly funny satire of high school life, with a great performances from Reese Witherspoon (Pleasantville) as the ruthlessly ambitious goody-two-shoes Tracy Flick running for school president, and reversing his Ferris Bueller persona, Matthew Broderick as the sponsoring teacher for the student government.

Flick is the really annoying student in your school (or law school for that matter) that always has their hand up and always knows the answer, and just will not shut the hell up. Broderick is perfect as the naive but eventually two-timing corrupt foil of those around him, playing a dedicated high school teacher whose one mistake unravels his entire life. Chris Klein plays a genuinely nice but dumb jock whom Broderick persuades to run for school president against Flick. You see, Flick recently had an affair with Broderick's best friend and fellow teacher, resulting in the friend's dismissal and divorce. The thought of having to work with Flick on a daily basis in the student government entirely frightens Broderick. Eventually, Klien's lesbian sister Tammy (Jessica Campbell) runs against the both of them. She is angry that her ex-girlfriend has decided to date her brother.

When the movie started and I saw MTV was a producer, I inwardly groaned. MTV has produced some of the worst movies made in the last few years. How could this movie be any good? Well, I was shocked at how good the film actually was. This is an very adult, very black comedy about teenagers, teachers and school elections. No aspect of high school is off limits for their wit, including teacher-student sex. Reese Witherspoon delivered a great performance as ambition in hyperdrive, mangaging ot be both funny and at the same time frightening. Matthew Broderick's performance was entirely believable as the naive Nebraska teacher driven to do what he does to stop Flick.

This film is cleverly edited, including comical freeze frames and overlays, freeze-frames, titles, split-screen, to produce a visually witty film. What is more important is the quality of the script by Payne and Jim Taylor (based on the novel by Tom Perrotta) that produces a biting satire. The quality of writing is by superior to the vast herd of tripe you are forced to wade through to find something that is actually well done. Charactorization, storyline, and dialog combined with excellent pacing produce a great film.

It is important to note that the film has a definite sense of realism. It is set and filmed in Lincoln, Nebraska rather than Los Angeles like every other film made in the US. Not everyone is rich. Not everyone speaks in the slang of the cool kids. The teachers actually drive cars that teachers would drive, namely a Ford Fiesta. Election is a brilliant film of quality. This is the good stuff. One of the best films of the year.

Grade = A

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