Election (1999 film)

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Election
Election 1999film.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed by Alexander Payne
Produced by Albert Berger
David Gale
Keith Samples
Ron Yerxa
Written by Alexander Payne
Jim Taylor
Based on Election 
by Tom Perrotta
Starring Matthew Broderick
Reese Witherspoon
Music by Rolfe Kent
Cinematography James Glennon
Editing by Kevin Tent
Studio MTV Films
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • April 23, 1999 (1999-04-23)
Running time 102 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $8.5 million
Box office $14,902,041

Election is a 1999 American comedy film directed and written by Alexander Payne and adapted by him and Jim Taylor 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.

Plot[edit]

Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) is a high school teacher in the suburbs of Omaha, Nebraska and Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) is an overachieving junior. Earlier in the year, another teacher, Jim's best friend Dave Novotny (Mark Harelik), seduced Tracy, whose mother ultimately learned of the affair. As a result, Dave was fired from his job and divorced by his wife, Linda (Delaney Driscoll).

Tracy announces that she is running for student body president. When Tracy presents her petition to Jim, she makes a remark about "working closely" that Jim interprets as an indication she will try and seduce him. Fearful and annoyed with Tracy, Jim tries to convince Paul Metzler (Chris Klein), a kind-hearted and popular football player at the school, to run against her. Ambivalent at first, Paul decides to run due to an injury keeping him off the field.

Meanwhile, Paul's younger sister Tammy (Jessica Campbell) is rejected by her romantic interest Lisa (Frankie Ingrassia), who rationalizes their time together as "experimenting." Lisa then engages in a passionate relationship with Paul. In retaliation, Tammy decides to run for president as well. During a school assembly to hear the candidate's speeches, after Tracy and Paul only draw polite applause, Tammy announces that the school president is useless and declares that she will dissolve the student government if elected. The speech rallies the students to a standing ovation and the school suspends her.

While working on another project after school, Tracy has a fit of rage and destroys all of Paul's campaign posters, with her attempt to dispose of them being observed by Tammy. The next day, when confronted by Jim, Tracy forcefully claims innocence. Tammy, holding the physical posters, then confesses to the act and is expelled and disqualified from the election.

The day before the election, Linda Novotny asks Jim to come over to help unclog her bathtub drain. After Jim completes the job, Linda unexpectedly initiates a sexual liaison with him and then suggests that he book a motel room for them to spend more time together later that day (a proposition Jim himself had made to Linda shortly after her breakup with Dave). However, Linda has a change of heart and doesn't appear to be at home when Jim arrives at her house to pick her up for their tryst. Not knowing where Linda could be, Jim walks into her backyard where he has the great misfortune of being stung by a bee on his right eyelid, causing a painful and unsightly allergic reaction. He then drives back to the motel and desperately tries to reach Linda by phone, but to no avail. Jim eventually returns to his own home later that evening only to find Linda and his wife (Molly Hagan) huddled together crying in the living room. Realizing that Linda has disclosed the infidelity to his wife and that he is no longer welcome at home, Jim spends a miserable night sleeping in his car outside Linda's house.

The next day — election day — Jim oversees the counting of the ballots. Paul had voted for Tracy, feeling that it would be arrogant to vote for himself. But this turns out to be a costly decision. The ballots are meticulously counted by a duo of student auditors, who determine that Tracy has prevailed by a single vote. When Jim happens to spot Tracy dancing excitedly in the hall, he deduces that she had been tipped off of her victory. After performing his own ballot count to certify the election, Jim decides to take matters into his own hands by surreptitiously disposing of two of Tracy's ballots and declaring Paul the official victor. This turnabout elicits incredulity and shock from the two student auditors, who are confident that their original vote count was accurate. When a janitor discovers the two discarded ballots and presents them to the principal, Jim is confronted and resigns.

Divorced and publicly humiliated, Jim leaves Nebraska, ultimately choosing to fulfill a longtime dream of moving to New York City, where he becomes a tour guide at the American Museum of Natural History. Tracy gets accepted into Georgetown University, but finds the experience disappointing. A content Paul gets into the University of Nebraska, while Tammy finds a new romantic relationship with a fellow student at the all-girls Catholic school where her parents have made her attend. As the film closes, Jim is in Washington D.C. and sees Tracy enter a limousine with a Congressman. Enraged, Jim hurls a milkshake 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, ignoring an overeager girl.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

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.[1][2]

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.[3]

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.[4]

Locations[edit]

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.[citation needed]

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.[5] 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.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Officials Deny Pregnant Girl School Crown". The New York Times. October 14, 1992. Retrieved May 1, 2010. 
  2. ^ Crace, John (February 21, 2009). "A life in writing: Tom Perrotta". The Guardian (London). Retrieved May 1, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Todd McCarthy Review from 'Variety'". April 19, 1999. 
  4. ^ "Watch The Never Before Seen Original Ending of Alexander Payne's Election". Slashfilm.com. 2011-05-13. Retrieved 2013-12-04. 
  5. ^ "Election - by Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor". Dailyscript.com. 1997-07-22. Retrieved 2010-10-08. 

External links[edit]