Happy Birthday, Alexander Payne! This uber-talented writer/director turns 60 on Feb. 10, so let’s celebrate the man’s birthday by looking back at one of his very best films: the sarcastic, cynical, and flat out hilarious dark comedy “Election”.
“Election” (1999) – Pick Flick! Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon), a resolute overachiever, relentlessly pushes to be picked/elected as the student government president, but history/civics/current events teacher Mr. McAllister (Matthew Broderick) tries to obstruct her seemingly-destined political culmination.
Writer/director Alexander Payne’s wild, stressful ride first appears as a straight-forward, light comedy, but he repeatedly surprises with unexpected, off-color zingers that jump out of nowhere, like a deer – wearing a clown suit – that suddenly hops in front of moving car. Payne perfectly calculates his series of car crashes, as we helplessly rubberneck towards the scholastic damage.
Witherspoon may have won an Oscar for “Walk the Line” (2005) and is loved as Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde” (2001), but her turn as the tight-lipped, wound-up go-getter from G. W. Carver High School is her best performance. With perfect comedic timing and both subtle and bulldozing facial expressions and body language, the 5 foot 1 ½ inch Tracy Flick can make any adversary quake in their boots. Speaking of quaking, Broderick – in a hilarious physical performance – plays the polar opposite of his risk-taking, teenage alter ego Ferris Bueller, and Chris Klein and Jessica Campbell are pitch-perfect in key supporting roles.
⭐⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Image credits: Paramount Pictures; Trailer credits: Movieclips