- Citizen Ruth (1996) is a solid debut- but Election marks the announcement of a promising talent in American cinema in Alexander Payne. Like Citizen Ruth, About Schmidt, Nebraska and Downsizing– it is set in Payne’s native Nebraska.
- The high school genre and teen film was still fertile ground in 1999 (Reese Witherspoon is in a few of these herself including the wickedly fun Cruel Intentions from the same year) but Election is a teen film going for more. The casting of ex-teen film god Matthew Broderick (Ferris Bueller himself from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off– 1986) feels like an acknowledgement of this—and riffs on it.
- Payne utilizes the Goodfellas/Casino/Thin Red Line style multiple voiceover narration storytelling. Broderick’s Jim McAllister gets a chance, as does Reese’s Tracy Flick (one of the great performances and characters of 1999), Chris Klein’s Paul Metzler gets some time and there is even a fourth voiceover—Jessica Campbell’s Tammy Metzler.
- Decades later now it is also hard to talk about the history of the freeze frame without mentioning Election. From Hitchcock’s Champagne to It’s a Wonderful Life to Truffaut’s use in the early 1960s to Butch Cassidy to Goodfellas. Payne chooses to freeze awkwardly on Witherspoon’s Flick (above)—he uses this single frame three times as he tells her story. She is ambition embodied—and run amok. She is like an evil Marge Gunderson- “a real go getter”. Payne will later freeze on her gleeful face when she wins the election (or so she thinks) and finally when she is getting into the limo in during the epilogue. Flick’s rich characterization is set up from the opening of the film as Payne and Witherspoon show her snapping out the legs of her fold out desk and dumping the gum into a fish bowl.
- Klein is hilarious- a sort of naïve mimbo idiot— but ultimately a good guy.
- Broderick’s McAllister is comic gold—he has the hilariously small Ford Festiva. The scene where he explains democracy with apples and oranges (making for perfectly similar circles on the chalk board) is genius. The bee sting he gets is sort of symbolic of absolute horror show of a bad day—slowly getting worse and worse throughout as his life falls apart.
- Payne’s use of Morricone’s “Navajo Joe Theme” as a needle drop is inspired. He takes it from the nihilistic wild west, and places it in a suburban high school setting. He goes to it when Tracy finds out Paul is running for president, and again when she tears down the posters in a fit of rage.
- Just before the final act prologue, Payne rifles a closeup montage of the faces of those angry (justifiably) at Broderick’s McAllister character.
- A Highly Recommend/Must-See film- perhaps leaning MS still. Election seems to catch Payne at his most experimental cinematically—a spark that was certainly absent for 2017’s disappointing Downsizing
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