It’s because of movies like these that you can really appreciate the acting talent of Reese Witherspoon. Not saying anything irreverent about Legally Blonde or This Means War, but here’s a gal that’s capable of ditzy and fun, smart and ambitious, elitist and obnoxious… I had her pegged as an annoying little snot at first. God knows why. She definitely has a broader range than actresses like Jennifer Aniston or Julia Roberts, though that’s not saying much. She’s much better than that.
She hasn’t really made any quantum leaps like Leonard DiCaprio in her career (we had so little hope for you when we first saw Titanic, Leo), but that’s really just because her acting chops have always been good. If you don’t believe me, check out Election from 1999. Watch as the young Witherspoon outshines and outplays Matthew Broderick, Chris Klein, and pretty much the whole cast.
The movie is about a high school student election. Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) sets out to sabotage the otherwise unopposed Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon), and even sets popular varsity football player Paul Metzler (Chris Klein) against her. McAllister clearly resents Track Flick, or rather what she represents; hardworking people that achieve levels of success he doesn’t aspire to. He may have the capacity, but he doesn’t want to do anything about it.
There are both things to like and dislike about this movie. First, what’s to like. The storyline is pretty deep, it explores the darker, lazier side of being human, and the acting is pretty good. Character motivation is subtle instead of being spelled out, like it would be in real life.
What’s not to like: the movie doesn’t really have the most interesting premise. Everybody remembers high school, but student election is something only candidates remember well. The characters aren’t terribly likable. Sure, they’re human, but the film has you questioning absolutely everybody.
In essence, Election is a movie that explores the duplicitous nature of human existence. We may try to look good on the outside, but sometimes we’ll pay any price just to get what we want. We may even compromise our personal integrity.
In that sense, it ends up hitting pretty close to home. Even when we don’t think we have a price, sometimes we do. Even when we don’t think we would ever do anything to sear our conscience, sometimes we do.
At the end of the film, the self-sabotaging McAllister contrasts his life with that of Flick’s. After cheating on his wife, McAllister has to move out of town. Nevertheless, he talks up his newfound miserable existence, even as he observes how successful Flick has become.
I think what the movie is trying to say is that there is a reward for those who work hard to accomplish their goals. However, it’s putting it in a way that doesn’t demean those who choose a simpler life. It’s subtle, but those who are willing to read between the lines will definitely catch it.
AS Rating: (6.5 / 10)