Election (1999 film)
|Directed by||Alexander Payne|
|Produced by||Albert Berger
|Written by||Alexander Payne
by Tom Perrotta
|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 Tom Perrotta's 1998 novel of the same title. The plot revolves around a high school election, and satirizes both suburban high school life and politics. The film stars Matthew Broderick as Jim McAllister, a popular high school history, civics, and current events teacher in suburban Omaha, Nebraska, and Reese Witherspoon as Tracy Flick, around the time of the school's student body election. When Tracy qualifies to run for class president, McAllister believes she does not deserve the title, and tries his best to stop her from winning.
The film 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 was ranked at #45 on the list of the "100 Greatest Film Performances of All Time" by Premiere.
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.
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (October 2013)|
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 yet unpopular junior. Earlier in the year, another teacher, Jim's best friend Dave (Mark Harelik), seduced Tracy, who ultimately revealed the affair to her mother. As a result, Dave was fired from his job and divorced by his wife, Linda (Delaney Driscoll), but was not charged with statutory rape.
Tracy announces that she is running for student body president, which horrifies Jim, who is in charge of organizing the school's student government and truly despises Tracy, who is unopposed. Jim 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. Jim convinces him to register for the election in order to stop Tracy's chances of winning, since Jim thinks that if Tracy wins the election, she will have to spend more time with him which might lead to the same misfortune that Dave had. At first, Paul does not like the idea because he does not feel smart enough to run in the election and does not want to go against Tracy, who has been nice to him, even letting him copy her homework. Eventually, Paul decides to run 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 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 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 cause 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 Jim, Tracy claims innocence and threatens legal action against the school. Tracy then sees Tammy talking to Jim and showing him the torn posters, which causes Tracy to panic. However, Tammy is actually "confessing" to Tracy's crime and is then transferred to a private parochial school for girls - the intended result of her false confession - and kicked out of the election.
Later, Jim, 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 home. 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, Jim oversees the counting of the election ballots at school. During this, he calls Linda several times, professing his love for her, after a bee stings him in the eye. 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).
When he happens to spot Tracy dancing around excitedly in the hall, Jim deduces that she found out she won before it was announced. Feeling vindictive, Jim secretly disposes of two of Tracy’s ballots and then demands a recount, naming Paul as the winner. As Jim and his student argue about the validity of vote it is suggested that Tammy, despite being disqualified on the ballot, actually received more protest votes than either of the other candidates. When a janitor discovers the two discarded ballots and presents them to the principal, Jim resigns from his job.
Divorced and publicly humiliated, Jim leaves Nebraska, ultimately choosing to fulfill a longtime dream of moving to New York City and becoming a tour guide at the American Museum of Natural History, where he meets a new woman. Tracy gets accepted into Georgetown University (but 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 a new girlfriend.
As the film closes, Jim recounts his final encounter with Tracy. After seeing her climb into a limousine with a politician, Jim 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 film ends with 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) who 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 Principal 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.
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.
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.
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (October 2013)|
Much of the film was shot in and around the Omaha area including Dundee, Elkhorn, Bellevue, Carter Lake, and Papillion. Other scenes were filmed in New York (including the college scene, which was actually filmed at Adelphi University on Long Island) and Washington D.C. Production shut down for about a month when a freak fall snowstorm hit Omaha in October 1997, knocking down trees and power lines.
Omaha locations used during production include:
- Papillion La Vista Senior High School serves as the setting for George Washington Carver High School. Payne had initially aimed to use Millard North High School in Omaha, but the School Board found the script obscene and inappropriate. The setting was then moved to Papillion-La Vista High School and filming took place during the 1997-98 school year.
- The Godfather's Pizza where Dave visits with Tracy is located at 7920 S. 84th St. in LaVista.
- The parking lot where Jim throws away Tracy's nomination signatures in a dumpster was filmed on the corner of N. 50th St. and Underwood Ave. The Carl S. Baum Druggists building in the scene is currently a Subway restaurant.
- Linda's house is located at 683 Parkwood Ln.
- The Metzler house is located on S. 187 Cir. along the Shadow Ridge Country Club south of Elkhorn.
- Younkers is located in the Westroads Mall.
- The soccer field at Brownell-Talbot School was used for the Immaculate Heart soccer game.
- The American Family Inn (also credited as Rodeway Inn) is located at 1110 Fort Crook Road in Bellevue.
- "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.
- "Watch The Never Before Seen Original Ending of Alexander Payne’s ‘Election’". Slashfilm.com. 2011-05-13. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
- "Election - by Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor". Dailyscript.com. 1997-07-22. Retrieved 2010-10-08.
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