Election is a mess, high school
at it’s petty, confused best.

Most people remember high school. There was always a favorite teacher, one that cared, was helpful and was always there for you. There was also always a student nobody could really stand. In public everyone may tolerate this student but actually, everybody hated him (or her). This student was the one that always had her hand up at every question, shaking the hand like each response she could give could save the world. Election is a movie made of such memories.

Matthew Broderick plays Mr. McAlliister, a civics teacher that is truly dedicated to his job. The students all like him and he actually enjoys coming to school each day. The ever-present raised hand in this particular school belongs to Tracy Flick, wonderfully portrayed by Reese Witherspoon. Tracy is perfect, has everything going for her and will one day be very famous. If you doubt this, just ask her. The event that crystallizes the divisions of the ever-present high school strata is the election for school council president. At first, Tracy is running unopposed. Of course this is seen by her as her God given mandate. It turns out that Tracy had an affair with McAllister’s best friend, another teacher, and ruined his life while nothing about the mess stuck to Tracy. McAllister talks Paul, an injured jock, to run against Tracy. Tracy is outraged. Paul’s kid sister also decides to run for president to get back at her brother. It seems that he became involved with a girl she was interested in. (His sister states that she is not gay, she falls in love with a person but it just happens that all the people happen to be girls.) What a mess, high school at it’s petty, confused best. The plot is full of twists and some great moments. The plot is a bit more complex than most movies of this genre but still very enjoyable.

The acting in Election is incredible. Broderick as the belabored teacher is so funny. This especially holds true for the many viewers that remember his battle against teachers in Ferris Buller. The comic timing of Broderick is polished and shows the years of movie and theatrical experience he has under his beat. Witherspoon once again demonstrates just how versatile an actress she is. She is as at home with comedy as she is with drama. The facial expressions she manages in Election show the bitter, controlling side of her character that are as vital to the plot and scene as the dialogue. The chemistry between these two talented actors really carries Election.

The direction of such a film is not an easy task. Fortunately, Alexander Payne is up to the task. His previous successful movie was Citizen Ruth, a tale of an addict that becomes the center of the abortion controversy. Payne handles each scene with humor and flair. The complexity of the plot provides Payne with a lot to work with. There is subtle humor as when McAllister realizes he must stop Tracy in her bid for the presidency. There is funny physical humor when a bee stings McAllister during the worst day of his life. Payne presents a believable, and darkly humorous look at high school life, a time that all of us remember.

The Election disc is beyond the usual DVD standards. There is an excellent audio commentary by the director that helps explain his process during the filming. It is not the type of commentary where the director just drones on. He provides periods when he remains silent giving the feeling that some scenes explain themselves. The anamorphic transfer is in 1:2.35 ration and is from an extremely good original. The Dolby 5.1 sound mix gives a full, rich effect. All in all, Election is an excellent buy especially for those who are fans of black comedy.

Review by Doug MacLean of hometheaterinfo.com

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