We’ve all known or met someone like Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon), the perfectionist do-gooder who will stop at nothing to succeed – even if it strays from what is moral and ethical. She’s one of the many suburban archetypes represented in Election, an amusedly bi-polar film by Alexander Payne (Sideways and The Descendants) that revolves around a high school election, showcasing the satirical dark side of the American middle class.
The film is structured by a multi-faceted approach that studies the actions and mindset – through voiceovers – of a range of characters that frequently cross paths with each other. Matthew Broderick plays a much-loved teacher who meddles with the election in the pursuit of the greater good, but is met with a karmic backlash that threatens to tip the balance of his life. His nuanced performance is one of the film’s many highlights, and the use of voiceovers could certainly inspire fan theories as to whether his character is a twisted extension of the Ferris Bueller moniker.
His involvement inspires Chris Klein’s character, a sweet but simple jock, to partake in the previously uncontested election. This sparks a series of events that twists an innocent contest into a domino effect of scandalous affairs.
This is where Election shines. It’s plotting is clever and is supported by self-referential writing that is elevated by skillful editing and visual cues. The awkward and the uncomfortable are at full display here, but at the failings of seemingly kind characters that have done the morally unthinkable. With that said, one can’t help but laugh at their misfortunes and revel in what destruction might lay in waiting.
Election represents the two-faced nature of suburban culture, and it is the blurring of these lines where the film finds its dramatic and comedic angle.
There’s a brilliant contrast of the pure and the explicit that is both alarming and hilariously absurd. The film shows a struggle in its characters to keep their private agendas and public lives separate from one another, and the cross between the two produces a ludicrous recipe for disaster.
The Trent Film Society will be screening Election on Wednesday, September 30th at Artspace for free. Like many comedies, this is a film to be watched and enjoyed en masse and is worthy of the critical acclaim it has received over the years. If you’re looking for something smart, shocking, and filled to the brim with satire, cast your vote for Election.