Election (1999 film)
|Directed by||Alexander Payne|
|Produced by||Albert Berger
|Written by||Alexander Payne
|Story by||Tom Perrotta (novel)|
|Music by||Rolfe Kent|
|Editing by||Kevin Tent|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Running time||102 minutes|
Election is a 1999 American comedy film adapted from a 1998 novel of the same title by Tom Perrotta. The plot revolves around a three-way election race in high school, and satirizes both suburban high school life and politics. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, a Golden Globe nomination for Witherspoon in the Best Actress category, and the Independent Spirit Award for Best Film in 1999.
The film stars Matthew Broderick, Reese Witherspoon, and Chris Klein and tells the story of Jim McAllister (Broderick), a popular high school history and civics teacher in suburban Omaha, Nebraska, and one of his students, Tracy Flick (Witherspoon), around the time of the school's student body elections. McAllister's involvement with various school-related functions masks his frustration with other aspects of his life; Tracy is an overachiever determined to get into a good college. When Tracy qualifies to run for class president in the school election, McAllister believes she does not deserve the title, and tries his best to stop her from winning.
While it failed to become a major box office success, home video and DVD releases were more lucrative. Following its release, the movie has received various rankings; Election is ranked #61 on Bravo's 100 Funniest Movies and #9 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Best High School Movies, while Witherspoon's performance as Flick was ranked at #45 on the list of the 100 Greatest Film Performances of All Time by Premiere Magazine. The film was rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for strong sexuality, sex-related dialogue and language, and a scene of drug use and was rated '15' by the BBFC for "some moderate sex and references".
Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) is a high school teacher in the suburbs of Omaha, Nebraska, whose enthusiastic involvement at school masks his frustration with other aspects of his life. Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) is an overachieving senior. Earlier in the year, another teacher, McAllister's best friend Dave (Mark Harelik), seduced Tracy. As a result, Dave was fired and divorced by his wife Linda (Delaney Driscoll), but was not charged with statutory rape.
One day, Tracy announces that she is running for student body president, which horrifies McAllister, who is in charge of organizing the school's student government and truly despises Tracy, who is unopposed. McAllister decides to teach Tracy a lesson in humility by introducing another candidate. Paul Metzler (Chris Klein) is a kind-hearted and popular football player at the school. Paul is unable to play football his final year due to a broken leg, leaving him depressed. McAllister convinces him to register for the election in order to stop Tracy's chances of winning, since McAllister thinks that Tracy wins the election, she will have to spend more time with him which might lead to the same misfortune that his best friend had. At first, Paul does not like the idea because he does not feel smart enough to run in the election, and he does not want to go against Tracy, who has been nice to him, even letting him copy her homework. Eventually, Paul agrees with McAllister because the election gives him a new purpose. This brings out Tracy's vindictiveness, as she is jealous of Paul’s ease at being successful and popular.
Meanwhile, Paul's younger sister Tammy (Jessica Campbell) is dumped by her girlfriend, Lisa (Frankie Ingrassia), who says that she is heterosexual and was just "experimenting". Lisa does not waste time in "getting over" Tammy, performing oral sex on Paul after asking him to drive her home from school one day. The two become an item (Paul claiming that they would "go to her house [after school] to fuck" and swim in the hot tub) and election partners, in part to anger Tammy.
In retaliation, Tammy decides to run for president as well, with a platform that student government is a sham. During a school assembly to hear their speeches, after Tracy and Paul only draw polite applause, Tammy delivers a defiant speech in which she denounces the election by saying that the school president does not really help the student body, and only uses the position to get credentials for college applications, much to Tracy's chagrin. Tammy also declares that she will dissolve the student government if elected. This rallies the student body to a standing ovation. Fearing the student body will vote for Tammy and thus the dissolution of the student government, the school suspends Tammy.
While at school one night over the weekend, Tracy tries to fix one of her posters, but accidentally tears it. In a fit of uncharacteristic rage, she destroys all of Paul's campaign posters. She tries to dispose of them at the power plant, but is observed doing so by Tammy. The next day, when confronted by McAllister, Tracy claims innocence and threatens legal action against the school. Tracy then sees Tammy talking to McAllister and showing him the torn posters, which makes Tracy panic. However, Tammy is actually "confessing" to Tracy's crime and is then transferred to a private parochial school for girls, which was the original objective of her false confession, and kicked out of the election.
Later, McAllister, who is secretly attracted to Linda, kisses her spontaneously the day before the election. Linda asks Jim to rent a motel room for a later rendezvous and he leaves school during a class to prepare the room. However, when he arrives later to pick her up, she is not there. He returns home to find Linda and his wife (Molly Hagan) talking together. Knowing he has been caught, Jim spends the night in his car outside Linda's house.
The next morning, McAllister oversees the counting of the election ballots at school. During this, he calls Linda several times, professing his love for her, after a bee sting. Jim's wife kicks him out of the house when he tries to apologize. After all the ballots are counted, Tracy has won by one vote (Paul voted for Tracy, feeling she was more qualified and that it is too arrogant to vote for oneself).
After seeing Tracy dancing around excitedly in the hall, McAllister deduces that she found out that she won before it was announced. McAllister secretly disposes of two of Tracy’s ballots and then demands a recount, naming Paul as the winner. While McAllister and his student argue about the validity of vote, it is suggested that the tally of protest votes for Tammy (disqualified on the ballot) exceeded that of either other candidate. When a janitor discovers the two discarded ballots and presents them to the principal, McAllister resigns from his job.
Divorced and humiliated, McAllister leaves Nebraska, ultimately choosing to fulfill a longtime dream of moving to New York City, becoming a tour guide at the American Museum of Natural History, where he meets a new woman. Tracy gets accepted into Georgetown University (but she still does not fit in with other students, much to her disappointment), while Paul gets into the University of Nebraska. Tammy loves her new school, where she has met her new girlfriend.
As the film closes, Jim recounts his final encounter with Tracy. After seeing her climb into a limousine with a politician, McAllister is reminded of his friend Dave and what Tracy has done to get where she is. Jim hurls a soda cup at the limousine, then makes a quick getaway. The final scene of the film shows Jim asking questions to some children he is giving a tour to at the Museum, all the while deliberately ignoring an overeager girl, the only one of the group who could answer, as she reminds him of Tracy.
- Matthew Broderick as Jim McAllister
- Reese Witherspoon as Tracy Enid Flick
- Chris Klein as Paul Metzler
- Jessica Campbell as Tammy Metzler
- Phil Reeves as Walt Hendricks
- Molly Hagan as Diane McAllister
- Colleen Camp as Judith Flick
- Nicholas D'Agosto as Larry Fouch
- Jeanine Jackson as Jo Metzler
- Holmes Osborne as Dick Metzler
- Mark Harelik as Dave Novotny
- Delaney Driscoll as Linda Novotny
- Matt Malloy as Vice Principal Ron Ball
- Frankie Ingrassia as Lisa Flanagan
- Pegi Georgeson as Ballot Lady
Director Alexander Payne had become a fan of the novel by Tom Perrotta on which the film is based; the novel's rights were sold to Payne in January 1997. The novel was inspired by two key events. The first was the 1992 Bush vs. Clinton election campaign, in which Ross Perot entered as a third party candidate (a move echoed by Tammy Metzler). The second was an incident at Memorial High School in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, in which a pregnant student was elected homecoming queen, but staff announced a different winner and burned the ballots to cover it up.
Within the text of a newspaper article in the film, the following can be read: "If you've paused the film in order to read this entire article, your time would be better spent renting Citizen Ruth from your local video store, which was another Payne film. Do you know how hard it is to write these fake few stories for newspaper movie props? I've got better things to do."
For the school assembly scenes, Payne had to use special effects to make the gym look full. As Payne said on the commentary, some students learned that being an extra wasn't all it was cracked up to be, and that left the assembly scene lacking in students. Payne filmed a select group of students sitting in different spots for multiple takes, and then (using digital editing) filled in the blanks to make it look like a packed gym.
The film uses a number of stylized techniques in its storytelling, particularly through the use of freeze frames, flashbacks and voiceovers, which allow sections of the narrative to be delivered from the points of view of the four main characters.
According to commentary by Alexander Payne, in the scene where Jim watches pornography in the basement, the basement was left unaltered.
The film was originally shot with an ending close to the one found in the novel, with Jim McCallister working in a car dealership, where Tracy visits him before leaving for college. After testing poorly with audiences, the ending was eventually reshot. The original ending was unseen until the accidental discovery of an early VHS workprint of the film at a flea market in 2011. The original ending also surfaced on YouTube but Paramount Pictures has since had it removed claiming copyright infringement. It can still be found on other various websites.
Several actors were cast in place of Broderick, Witherspoon, Klein, and Campbell and turned it down because of the high-risk content and creative differences. Thora Birch was cast as Tammy Metzler, but left due to creative differences with Alexander Payne. Many of the remaining cast members were scouted on location, including the janitor that appears at the beginning and end of the movie. He is an actual janitor that works for the director's offices in Omaha, Nebraska. He was formerly a janitor at Duchesne Academy. He has since retired.
Also, the casting director of the movie is the football player that appears in the adult movie that McAllister watches. Many local Omaha students and teachers were used in the film for the roles of students and teachers. One in particular was Chris Klein, who would end up becoming a mainstay in Hollywood and star in other movies. Payne found him when he was scouting schools for locations to shoot and a teacher at one of the schools introduced him to Klein. Witherspoon had been acting in moderately well-received films in the early 1990s. Nicholas D'Agosto, who appeared towards the end of the film as committee chairman Larry Fouch, was just a student at Creighton Preparatory School in Omaha, the same high school Payne attended, when he did this movie. He would go on to college at Marquette University in Milwaukee before moving out to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career.
Outside references 
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand earned the nickname "Tracy Flick" within the New York Congressional delegation before her January 2009 appointment by NY Gov. David Paterson to fill Hillary Clinton's U.S. Senate seat, according to The New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.
- "Officials Deny Pregnant Girl School Crown". The New York Times. October 14, 1992. Retrieved May 1, 2010.
- Crace, John (February 21, 2009). "A life in writing: Tom Perrotta". The Guardian (London). Retrieved May 1, 2010.
- "Todd McCarthy Review from 'Variety'". April 19, 1999.
- "Trivia for Election". at the Internet Movie Database.
- Watch The Never Before Seen Original Ending of Alexander Payne’s ‘Election’
- "Which Governor is wackiest?" by Maureen Dowd The New York Times 1/25/09 p. WK11 NY edition. Retrieved 1-25-09.
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