I watched Alexander Payne's Election -- a cult-comedy classic from 1999 -- for the first time yesterday and found it adorably funny in a dark, these characters are fucked-up kind of way. Never really "laugh out loud" knee-slapping fun, but a smirk and chuckler from start to finish. (More After Jump -->)
Based on Tom Perrotta's novel of the same name, Election is essentially an ensemble film centered around a three-person election for class president at Carver High School and a history teacher, Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick), who oversees, supervises and takes an active role in the outcome. I'd say a loose ensemble film in that Broderick's Jim is essentially the main protaganist, but when three other characters have their own voiceovers and subplots, it's tough to write it off as such.
It's unique in that nobody wins as a result of their actions -- and I'm not talking about winning the campaign, but rather talking about coming out of the situation unscathed -- that kind of "winning".
The film is essentially saying that no good can come of sinful greed, back-door behavior and all-around snobbery. It's also partly inspired by the 1992 presidential election between Bush and Clinton.
The acting is superb, with Reese Witherspoon playing the conniving, evil-hearted, overachieving, wanna be wholesome straight-A student with an appealing bitch vibe about her throughout. Matthew Broderick is equally exacting as a meandering, unfaithful and unhappy history teacher in the midst of a major mid-life crisis -- and that's before he gets stung in the face by a bee, practically closing up his eye for half of the film.
Probably one of the better high-school comedies ever made, in that it's refreshingly devoid of crude, foul-mouthed gorillas just trying to get some action. Election is like that guy at a party who just sits back and sips his beer and makes no conscious effort to entertain but just does so because he's oozing with coolness -- opposed to the fat guy wearing a football jersey, smashing bear cans into his forehead.