I ran for student body vice-president once. I, the very unpopular kid with the overactive sweat glands, went up against "Mr. Popular Asshole with Good Skin" Mike Kelly. Now that I reflect back on it, I know why I ran. I did it because I wanted to be vice-president. I didn't have any great ideas, I just thought it would make me look cooler. I made really stupid posters with lame slogans like "A Vote For Filthy is a Vote for Clean Government" and "Get Nasty and Vote Filthy." It's the kind of shit that makes me cringe in reflection, and stuff I don't tell anyone but my close friends like you. Mike Kelly was the only kid in our class already french-kissing and touching seventh grade girls' boobies. I got my ass kicked. I think I got beat about 300 to 20. I wasn't scarred for life by the loss, luckily, because instead of getting sad, I just withdrew and became extremely bitter. I stopped being a good student and wound up working at the Amoco. Mike Kelly? Who the fuck cares what happened to him. I hope he married some stupid ultra-Christian girl, bought a minivan, went bald and plays softball with his church group every Sunday.
"Election" is about that awkward time of life when the over-ambitious kids step all over the less ambitious. It's a truly funny satire that pokes fun at all the people who take this shit too seriously.
Reese Witherspoon is an over-ambitious little go-getter who's in every club on campus. You know the type, the ones who are in clubs not because they give a rat's ass about Spanish or debate, but because they give a rat's ass about whether they have the most mentions in the fucking yearbook. She has also ruined the life of teacher Matthew Broderick's best friend and fellow teacher, who seduced her and got caught. Broderick is a spineless teacher. You know the one: everyone's favorite because he's so dedicated, but if you really think about it you wonder what the fuck is wrong with him that he bothers caring about teenagers who aren't even from his own seed. Broderick's character is starting to wonder this too. He also fears that if he has to work closely with Witherspoon as president that she may sucker him into seducing her too.
Witherspoon is running uncontested for student body president and Broderick realizes he doesn't want another fucking overachieving robot ruining the lives of everyone. He wants to stop her upward climb before she's the chief executive of a company that dumps toxic waste. To do this, he recruits the school's most popular kid, Chris Klein, into running against her. Klein's younger sister, Jessica Campbell is a sophomore and lesbian who has been jilted by her best friend, who decides she is heterosexual after all and starts dating Klein. To get even, Campbell decides to run in the election against her brother, on the always popular platform of "Who cares?"
The story revolves around Broderick's descent into the hell of trying to stop the locomotive-like (in more ways than one) Witherspoon from being elected while he tries to figure out what the hell he wants out of life besides a piece of his friend's ex-wife's ass.
There are many reasons why this movie kicks ass. First off, it looks like it really takes place in an Omaha, Nebraska high school. This isn't some coke-snorting Hollywood executive's idea of what a high school looks like. It's real, with ugly teachers wearing ugly ties, scratchy orange furniture, stupid posters and cinder block walls. It is not glorified or prettied up for fear that the American public wouldn't pay to see what a high school looks like. Second, the people look like they're from Omaha. There's no Kim Basinger as a teacher's wife or hunky teachers driving sports cars. Broderick drives a Ford Festiva, a car woefully underrepresented in modern cinema. His wife is plain and mousy, and he lusts after the equally plain ex-wife of his friend. Reese Witherspoon is the chunky, flat-faced girl she really is, not the unconvincing cocktease they made her into for the awful "Cruel Intentions."
Director Alexander Payne does not shy away from an ugly scene. He previously made the kick-ass comedy "Citizen Ruth," in which he also exploited the weaknesses of others for comedic effect. In fact, he plays out ugly scenes to their squirm-inducing endings. They aren't gross, it's just the characters make such real and bad decisions that you can't help wishing they didn't. Particularly Broderick, who watches pornos in his basement, has some of the most awkward sex ever seen outside of VidMark's Triple-X feature "Amateur Super 8 mm Butt-Fest!", and who sabotages his own future out of spite for a teen. Payne is not afraid to show that every character is flawed, and he lingers over the flaws and the terrible mistakes they cause.
The dialogue and performances are spot-on. The kids talk like kids, which is pretty fucking stupidly. And they live in a world where high school is the most important thing in their lives. They aren't aware of the world outside, and they aren't cool, like in all of the other shitty self-aware high-school movies out there. There are no soft-focus close-ups. No ugly girl is discovered to be pretty, and no acne make-up covers the blemishes.
Broderick is perfect as the spineless teacher who secretly lusts after cheerleaders. I mean, Broderick seems spineless, so having him play a character like that is as brilliant as having Alan Alda play an overly sensitive feminist asshole. Witherspoon gives up all ego and comes across in the worst light. If there were teenage boys jacking off while thinking of getting into her pants before this movie, they'd now be better off fantasizing about sticking their virgin cocks into cattle. It's a tribute to
My only reserve with "Election" is that the stakes are raised too high in the second half. The satire is sort of spoiled as the characters encounter real issues. Broderick's life goes to shit, and even though I am in favor of him receving lots of punishment for being in "Godzilla," the horror he encounters here takes away from the comedy of the absuridty of high school and all its awkward glory.
In all, though, it's a great damn movie that'll have a hard
time finding an audience. MTV made it, but it mocks its own dumb
teenaged viewers. And one thing stupid teenagers hate is being
made fun of. Four fingers.