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Starring Matthew Broderick, Reese Witherspoon
Screenplay by Jim Taylor and Alexander Payne
Based on a novel by Tom Perrotta
Directed by Alexander Payne

IN SHORT: And adult sex comedy of morals and ethics. Brilliantly written and very, very funny.

Cranky's definition of a brilliantly written screenplay (yeah I know I'm repeating myself in the second sentence here) is one in which you, the oftentimes hardworking money-paying moviegoing patron will sit and know, instinctively, that you've seen variations on the scenes in the unspooling reel before. The gray matter in your head is telling you that you are fully aware of what is going to happen next. The "brilliant" part works in this way: A) even when you're sure you know what's coming next, you are looking forward to seeing it, and B) you're flabbergasted when the movie moves off in a totally different direction. If the only flaw in Election is that it has a couple of different codas after the main story ends, it is a like a flaw in a diamond. You live with the tiny ones because the jewel glimmers so...

The screenplay that director Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor have derived from Tom Perrotta's novel is an intricate tale of high school politics, lust, and envy among two generations (students and teachers and their families). At the center of the whirlwind is Tracy Enid Flick (Reese Witherspoon), a real go-getter -- always running half a dozen clubs, in the school government, first in class to pop up a hand and possessed of so much positive attitude that even Tony Robbins would be envious. You remember the type from high school 'cuz you probably stayed the hell away from him or her.

That isolation leads to loneliness, though Tracy has a doublespeak explanation that refuses to acknowledge the "L" word. How she deals with it inadvertently puts her in conflict with good guy teacher Jim McCallister (Matthew Broderick), who really doesn't want to see this girl elected Student Body President, especially since she's running unopposed. So he engineers a competition and prods football star Paul Metzler (Chris Klein), sidelined by a broken leg, into the race. Third candidate in the race, due to a case of sibling sexual rivalry too funny to detail, is Paul's sister Tammy (Jessica Campbell).

Election is no bopperflick. Jim's got problems all his own, involving loving wife Diane (Molly Hagan) and the alluring divorcee Linda Novotny (Delaney Driscoll), the ex-wife of his best friend . . . say no more. High school politics cross with high school sex (and there's nothing new there --students were sleeping with teachers when I was a kidlet, too) and how it all unravels is a fine reminder of who the most powerful person in a school really is.

Payne's direction includes a very funny homage to Hitchcock's Psycho. He also generates gags with unappetizing freeze frames of the characters (as other characters diss them) and other visual devices that are funny in their own right.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Election, he would have paid...


Anyone GenX or higher, who has graduated from high school and started a love life, will find a goldmine of things to reminisce or laugh about. If you have any problem with four-letter words, be warned that they're here in abundance. Even the most vicious of 'em serves as the punchline for a joke. When I wrote "adult sex comedy" I meant it.

Election is a winner. No question about it.

Click here for CrankyCritic® StarTalk with Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon.

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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2016   by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.